Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

At home in the worlds

Albertan Nedohin on Lethbridge ice, but pressure's high

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CALGARY -- To the rest of the curling community, it's the Ford world women's championship that gets underway today in Lethbridge, Alta.

But to the skip of the team that will carry the most pressure into the 12-team tournament, it's simply another stop on a tour of her home province.

"I've been joking that it's just another 'spiel on the Alberta tour," laughed Heather Nedohin,

"We go from Leduc (for the provincial championship) to Red Deer (for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts) to Lethbridge. That's my mind-frame. The teams just get a little bit stronger as we progress."

That's one element, of course. The other is that, unlike in Red Deer, where Nedohin, third Beth Iskiw, second Jessica Mair and lead Laine Peters didn't go into the Scotties as favourites, in Lethbridge, there's no question the newly crowned Canadian champs will be thrust firmly into that role.

But Nedohin, who will be playing in her second world championship after earning a bronze medal as the third for Cathy King's team in 1998 at Kamloops, B.C., will have nothing to do with that thought process.

"Excuse my ignorance, but it's still the same dimensions of the sheet of ice, it's still the same rocks, it's still the same shots that we want to play," protested Nedohin, whose team opens tonight against Allison Pottinger of the United States.

"Yes, I've educated myself about the teams we'll play against, but at the same time, just like at the Scotties, I have to make decisions based on what we're doing. And I feel fortunate that I've been able to see a lot of those teams (at cashspiels) in Calgary or Winnipeg or Brantford, and had a beer or two with some of those teams, so there are very familiar faces."

So yes, there's a familiarity factor that may have been absent the last time Nedohin, 36, played on the global stage. Yet the burden of wearing the Maple Leaf on your back can't be discounted. It's worth noting that no Canadian women's team has won the world championship since Jennifer Jones in 2008 at Vernon, B.C.

In the end, so much is the same. But so much is different, too, because there's no pressure in curling like that of being Team Canada on home ice.

"It can be tough. It's crept into my thoughts occasionally," Iskiw conceded. "But we've worked with our sports psychologist (Lisa Rogerson) a lot about getting prepared and how to deal with it. So it does creep in a little bit, but then we have ways of throwing that out and just preparing for the event, regardless of what's at stake. That's really helped. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think a little bit about it. I've been to a worlds before (the 1997 junior world championship in Japan) and been disappointed, so that creeps into my mind a little bit, and I want to make the best of this opportunity."

Nedohin and Co. headed to Red Deer last month hoping to make a splash, but most of the focus was on Jones in her quest to avenge a final-game defeat a year earlier. And when Alberta stumbled to a 2-3 start, a playoff position was suddenly in jeopardy.

But a 5-1 finish in the round robin locked up the fourth and final playoff spot, and no team was better on the closing weekend in clutch situations.

"Someone told me that we had a slow start, and I thought, 'Funny, I never felt that,' " Nedohin said. "I don't think I would ever consider us out of the running until it's mathematical. That's just who we are.

"I just think that we typically control our outcomes, and I hope and expect other skips to make great shots against us to win. If that's what happens for a loss, so be it. If that knocks us out? That's a part of the game. I want to see great shots have to be made to knock us out, just like I want to make great shots to win."

Being the home team worked out nicely for Nedohin in Red Deer, so she doesn't foresee any problems handling the same scenario in Lethbridge.

"Wearing the Maple Leaf in your country, and in our own province, it means more familiar faces in the stands, and that means regardless of how we do, we have tons of support," she said.


-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2012 C7

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