VICTORIA — Winnipeg curler Cathy Overton-Clapham entered a class of her own at the 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
With her 10th appearance at a Canadian women’s curling championship this year, Overton-Clapham has now competed at more of these events than any other Manitoban.
And she’s competed well. Even with her team struggling the past couple of days, Overton-Clapham has once again led all thirds in shooting percentage and is a large part of the reason why her Team Canada foursome advanced to a tiebreaker game today with a 6-5 win over B.C. during the final draw of the round robin Thursday night.
Free Press curling writer Paul Wiecek sat down with Overton-Clapham earlier this week to discuss life as a curling celebrity, motherhood, board games and the time she drank out of the Stanley Cup.
Question: You must get recognized a lot.
Answer: It’s fun. The grocery stores and the school — people will say they saw me on TV or wish me good luck. It has its moments sometimes, where you’re not yourself and people want to talk. But it’s great people are recognizing you. It’s fun to have fans and see people.
Q: What about when you feel lousy and look crappy and you just need a jug of milk?
A: Well yeah, exactly, that’s when it’s kind of lousy. But my grocery-store people know, so that’s not a problem.
Q: Hat and sunglasses ever?
A: Not as a disguise. But I’m not as recognizable as (skip) Jennifer (Jones).
Q: What’s it like curling with someone with such a high profile?
A: She’s in high demand. She juggles a lot of things — she’s a lawyer and a wife, and to do all these other things is quite amazing, really.
Q: Is her juggling act any more difficult than yours as a mother, though?
A: It’s hard to compare; they’re totally different.
Q: Sure, but you’ve had to make a lot of hard sacrifices, too. Maybe the hardest kind of all.
A: I’ve missed a lot of things. I’ve missed the odd Christmas concert and that’s hard. (Son) Andrew is at the age (10) where he understands. He’s starting to curl himself and he enjoys it. And the goal is to go to the Olympics and that’s a family goal. We’re working together to make that work.
Q: I find that interesting: You treat the Olympics as a family goal. Have you sat down and discussed it that way with Andrew, (daughter) Mackenzie and (husband) Mike?
A: Yeah, Andrew understands. Mackenzie (6) has a harder time — she doesn’t understand why I have to go away so much. But she likes it when I’m at the school, when I’m talking to a class; she gets excited with that. I think when she gets older, she’ll look back on it as a pretty cool thing. But yeah, it’s hard — we’re away every other weekend, practically."
Q: Are you super-competitive in other aspects of your life? Do you play board games to the death, for instance?
A: I don’t like board games. But when I play my kids, I play to win. I don’t let them win. (laughs)
Q: When you first burst onto the scene, it was as the replacement for an injured Karen Purdy on Connie Laliberte’s team at the 1995 Canadian Scotties. You guys won and then the following season you left your old skip, Janet Harvey, behind to curl full-time with Laliberte, which left Purdy and Harvey in a bit of a lurch. I’m told a lot of folks were mad at you at the time, but that was before I started covering curling...
A: That’s good. I got lucky there. (laughs). You would’ve been all over me.
Q: Probably, yeah. Would you do the same thing again today?
A: It was a great opportunity that would have been hard to say no to. I was going after a dream. Do I have regrets? Yeah — I regret some people got hurt.
Q: It wouldn’t be nearly such a big deal now with everyone cutting everyone else’s throats these days to get to the Olympics.
A: Now, it’s all about putting the best team together. You’re spending every day together. It’s a full-time thing now. If we were the kind of sport where we had a coach who made the decisions, you’d be sitting on the bench if you weren’t playing well. Unfortunately, curling isn’t like that. But it’s changing. A lot of people are putting the best teams together and if it isn’t working, this is what will happen.
Q: Your dad’s the director of scouting for the Dallas Stars.
A: Yeah, I’ve had the Stanley Cup in my house.
Q: The Stanley Cup? In your house?
Q: What’d you do with it?
A: We had a party, of course.
Q: Did you drink from it?
A: Absolutely. The guy with the white gloves was there the whole time.
Q: If you don’t make the Olympics, how will you reflect on your career?
A: I was lucky and very fortunate. I’ve had a lot of success and been very fortunate to have curled with great curlers and great friends. I’d have no regrets." firstname.lastname@example.org
A whole lot of jewelry
The curlers at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts receive gifts of jewelry every time they make an appearance and then get second gifts if they finish in the Top 3 (diamond jewelry for wins, rubies for second place and emeralds for third). With 10 appearances at the Canadian women’s curling championship and three Canadian titles, Jennifer Jones third Cathy Overton-Clapham has an extraordinary collection of shiny things. Here’s the inventory she keeps tucked away in a safety deposit box when she’s not wearing them at this event:
One Scotties necklace, with three hearts filled with diamonds and the fourth filled with a ruby;
One Scotties bracelet, with two heart charms filled with diamonds;
One Scotties ring filled with a ruby;
Four Scotties rings filled with emeralds;
One Scotties ring filled with a one-carat diamond (the size signifies three Canadian titles).
Greatness in the blood
Cathy Overton-Clapham is just the latest in a long line of successful people — particularly athletes — in her family. Here’s a rundown of some of Overton-Clapham’s relatives:
Great-uncle Gerry Vincent — Blue Bombers great, member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1958 Winnipeg Blue Bombers;
Grandmother Dorothy McKenzie — member of the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame;
Great-aunt Irene Grinke — member of the Manitoba Track and Field Hall of Fame;
Uncle Chuck McKenzie — member of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame;
Father Doug Overton — director of pro scouting, Dallas Stars;
Sister Kim Overton — 1990 Manitoba women’s curling champion;
Great-uncle Frederick Grinke — world-renowned violin soloist, teacher, Commander of the British Empire.
‘Better and better’
Perhaps no one knows Cathy Overton-Clapham better on the ice and off of it than Janet Arnott.
The women curled together for years, winning a Canadian title in 1995. And more recently, Arnott has coached Overton-Clapham and the rest of the Jones foursome.
Here’s Arnott’s thoughts this week on Overton-Clapham’s place in curling:
"She eats, breathes, sleeps and lives this sport. Curling is in Cath’s blood. She’s also a fierce competitor. And that combination makes her a wicked opponent but a great teammate... "Every year, she’s gotten better and better and better at handling the pressure. I think with maturity has come responsibility and that’s why she’s gotten so good at handling that pressure. She has no problems with pressure...
"She’s got a great history in the game and the sport. And I like to think it will continue as long as she goes in this sport. And if the day comes and she decides she’s not going to play anymore, I think she’d be a great coach. She’s got that competitive spirit but she’s also very intuitive with people. She senses when things aren’t right with people. Maybe it’s the mom in her."
Very impressive stats
Cathy Overton-Clapham has moved into some very rare company with her 10th appearance this year at a Canadian women’s curling championship. Here’s a look at Overton-Clapham’s career by the numbers:
10 Most ever appearances at the women’s nationals by a Manitoba curler
3 Canadian womens curling championships
8 Number of consecutive years she had made the playoffs at the Scotties coming into this event
4 Number of skips she’s curled with in women’s (Kathy Allardyce, Janet Harvey, Connie Lalberte, Jennifer Jones)
1 Number of times she’s skipped at the nationals
7 Number of curlers that have played in more Scotties than Overton-Clapham
3 Number of all-star selections
130 Number of games played at the Scotties
1 Number of Canadian junior championships