Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

But can she play like her dad?

Cathy O's Ashley Howard gets her shot at Scotties

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PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE -- He's played for two world championships and Olympic gold and is now the voice of curling for millions of Canadians.

And yet it is the simple act of sitting in a seat here this week at the PCU Centre that Russ Howard said is giving him anxiety like never before.

It is one thing to play. It is quite another for a father to watch a daughter play.

 

"This is the hardest thing I've done in curling," Howard said Wednesday night as he watched daughter Ashley Howard play second for Cathy Overton-Clapham at the Manitoba Scotties.

"It's way harder than playing. Because when you play, you've got your own theories, strategies and how you should play.

"And at the level I was playing -- which was a pretty high level -- it can be frustrating to watch here. And that's not to say they're making mistakes because they have one of the best skips in the world.

"But when you see them miss the wrong way, you kind of want to say, 'Guys...' It's way tougher to watch."

And that was especially true Wednesday afternoon as Howard could only watch helplessly as his daughter and the rest of Overton-Clapham's second-seeded squad were stunned 7-6 by 14th seed Lisa DeRiviere of Miami.

The Howards were happier by day's end, however, as Overton-Clapham improved to 1-1 with a 5-4 win over Brandon's Liza Park last night. The win put Overton-Clapham in a six-way tie for second in her round-robin pool, a game behind third seed Chelsea Carey at 2-0.

In the other pool, top seed Jennifer Jones, fourth seed Barb Spencer and sixth seed Jill Thurston are tied for first at 2-0.

Howard helped broker the deal that saw his 22-year-old daughter move to Winnipeg last summer to curl with Overton-Clapham.

Opportunity

She's rented an apartment, enrolled at the Asper School of Business and taken full advantage of an opportunity that was perhaps facilitated by her famous father but for which she will ultimately be judged on her own merit.

And the early reviews are good. "Ashley's the cool cat, for sure," said Overton-Clapham. "She brings the light to the table. She's funny and fun to be around. She's going to be fine if we're lucky enough to be there at the end of the week."

Advised Wednesday that she was being interviewed by a man who had already interviewed every other Howard in curling -- Russ, Glenn, Scott and Steven -- Ashley Howard was quick with a comeback.

"Well then you've saved the best for last," she laughed.

It is not often that someone moves to Winnipeg for the winters -- and even less seldom when that person is effusive with praise for the experience.

"This winter has been phenomenal for me, absolutely phenomenal," Howard said.

"I've settled in my apartment, I'm going to an absolutely fantastic school... And getting to curl with Cathy has been amazing. She's been an idol my whole life growing up.

"When Cathy Overton-Clapham calls you up to ask you to curl, you book the next flight out."

While she's quick with a joke -- "In my opinion, if you keep it light out there, it will get you further" -- Ashley Howard has also known more than a little disappointment on a sheet of curling ice.

While her father was undefeated in his trips to the world stage -- winning world titles in both his trips in 1987 and 1993 and Olympic gold in Turin in 2006 -- the daughter has yet to savour a championship, having lost a women's provincial final, three junior provincial finals and a mixed provincial final in New Brunswick.

And so now, this woman who was born in Ontario and learned to curl in New Brunswick under the watchful eye of a living curling legend, has a chance to win her first provincial title curling in Manitoba with another living legend.

"Strange. I never really thought that if I won a province that it would be Manitoba," said Howard.

Her father points out there is a little history working in favour of the demographics of his daughter's new team, where three youngsters -- Howard, Jenna Loder and Breanne Meakin -- are playing under the guidance of a seasoned veteran in Overton-Clapham.

"It reminds me a lot," said Howard, "of me playing with Brad Gushue for that year."

And we all know how that turned out.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2012 C3

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