Scotties Tournament of Hearts: 23-year-old Ontario skip Rachel Homan tops four-time champ Jennifer Jones for Canadian women’s curling title

It can be hard for younger curlers to make an impact in a sport that often seems to reward age, but don't tell Rachel Homan. Homan, the 23-year-old Ontario skip who's been shaking up the curling world, took down four-time Canadian champ Jennifer Jones' Manitoba rink 9-6 Sunday in Kingston, Ontario to win the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in decisive fashion. It was only Homan's second appearance at the Scotties (her rink finished fourth in 2011, but she lost the Ontario final in 2012), and some might have figured she'd have a tough time going head to head with a legend like the 38-year-old Jones, who has 10 appearances at the Scotties and was gunning for her fifth tournament title. Those people would have been wrong, though. As James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail writes, Homan's fearlessness has long been on display; Ontario third Emma Miskew told Mirtle her skip's intensity helped fuel the team's self-belief:

“Rachel believes every time she throws a shot she’s going to make it,” Miskew added. “And she makes so many shots that other skips wouldn’t even throw because it’s a gutsy call or because it looks hard. Nothing scares her. She’s a very intense person and in such a good way.”

Homan shot a stunning 93 per cent in the final (a beatdown that included 3-0, 7-4 and 9-4 leads for Ontario) and led her team of lead Lisa Weagle,second Alison Kreviazuk and third Miskew to a decisive victory that has many talking about just how high they can rise. One of the challenges in women's curling is finding funding and sponsors, but a Scotties win can dramatically change that; Mirtle writes that the Scotties title alone comes with $15,500 in prize money, but the Ontario team's victory also nets them a $10,000 sponsorship for next month’s world championships, $40,000 in Own The Podium funding and $144,000 from Sport Canada in the next two years. They'll likely be strongly favoured at the Olympic trials this fall, too, which could lead to Homan and company representing Canadian curling on the world stage in Sochi next year. As Sean Fitz-Gerald of The National Post writes, it hasn't been an easy journey to this point for Homan, but it's sure looking up now:

Craig Homan said his daughter has a tattoo on her foot. It is dedicated to the memory of her late grandfather, Gerald. He was a long-time curler and an officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and its old motto became her tattoo: “Through adversity to the stars.”

Rachel Homan started curling when she was only four years old, and she had always been close with her grandfather. He had already fallen ill before she qualified to compete at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts two years ago, but he still made the trip. He died of cancer later that year, and Rachel Homan got her tattoo.

“It’s always with her,” Craig Homan said.

Homan and her team made it through adversity and a legion of doubters to reach the stars Sunday, but the real question is just how they can climb. For a 23-year-old Ontario skip who just earned a Scotties title with a decisive win over a Canadian curling legend, though, the future sure seems unlimited. The rest of the Canadian curling world should watch out.