Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A father's pride lives on

Team Canada third remembers her dad, her coach, her mentor

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CHARLOTTETOWN -- She has been unflappable, answering every challenge that has confronted her the last eight days with icy composure.

Until, that is, she was asked about her late father Saturday.

Team Canada rookie third Kaitlyn Lawes has been as cool as the ice here all week long, emphatically answering all the doubters who suggested prior to this event that the controversial replacement for Cathy Overton-Clapham might not yet be ready for primetime.

Lawes started hot, finishing second in the pre-event skills competition, and then just kept right on rolling, shooting 81 per cent through the round-robin to finish first in the 12-team field at her position.

And then, playing in her first-ever Scotties playoff game Friday night, Lawes overcame a poor start to play an instrumental role in her team's come-from-behind victory over Saskatchewan that propelled her Team Canada foursome to today's Canadian women's curling championship final.

It will be the biggest moment in her curling career here this afternoon -- and it is perhaps why the mere mention of her late father, Keith Lawes, was enough to finally crack that icy veneer.

"Obviously I wish he could see me here," said Lawes, 22, her eyes welling with tears. "It's pretty emotional still. I got a couple of messages this week from some curlers saying he'd have been so proud. Obviously, I would hope he would be.

"My mom has been here, my brother as well. That support has been really great."

In addition to being Kaitlyn's father, Keith Lawes was also the coach and mentor of his young daughter through her prodigious junior curling career in Winnipeg. A competitive curler himself, Keith Lawes' biggest contributions to the game were his two daughters -- Andrea Lawes, a five-time Scotties competitor for Ontario and now Kaitlyn. The two women are half-sisters.

While the senior Lawes saw Andrea play plenty on the national stage over the years, he never lived to see Kaitlyn on the national curling stage. Keith Lawes died of cancer in November, 2007, just two months before Kaitlyn began an amazing run that saw her win back-to-back Manitoba and Canadian junior titles, as well as a world junior title in 2009.

That he is once again conspicuous by his absence here this week has obviously had an effect on his daughter emotionally, but the void has certainly not been evident in her play.

"I'm just really excited we're in the final," Lawes said. "I don't think it's any different than any other game. We'll have to deal with the TVs on us, but we've had to deal with that all week.

"And they make my job so much easier," Lawes said, referring to her three-time defending Canadian champion teammates. "I'm sure there will be some butterflies... but sweeping my little heart out will get some of that energy out."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2011 A24

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