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Can Jennifer come out to play?

Cathy O wins chance to even the score with former skip

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ALTONA -- She's been mad all winter. Now she gets a chance to get even.

Fired by Jennifer Jones last spring from the three-time defending Canadian champion team she helped lead, Cathy Overton-Clapham completed the most unlikely of comebacks Sunday, winning the 2011 Manitoba curling championship with a 7-4 victory over Morden's Chelsea Carey in the final of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

While it was her seventh Manitoba women's title -- tying the provincial record held by Janet Arnott -- Overton-Clapham made no secret that winning the right to represent Manitoba this time around at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts next month in Charlottetown was extra special.

"Absolutely," said Overton-Clapham. "I had won the right to play in Charlottetown. And one of the best Scotties I ever played in was in Charlottetown (in 1999). It's just a thrill to go back. And I've never gone to a Canadians as a skip. I'm really excited."

Indeed, Overton-Clapham will go down as the first curler in memory to twice win the right to curl at the same national curling event -- once last February in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., when she won the 2010 Scotties with Jones and again Sunday.

Overton-Clapham will also have a chance to make still more history in Charlottetown. A victory in P.E.I., would give her six Canadian women's curling championships, tying the record held by Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones.

The storylines don't end there, either. Overton-Clapham's lead Raunora Westcott and second Leslie Wilson have a chance at some redemption of their own. The pair won a Manitoba women's title with Jill Thurston last year, but Westcott was fired after the season and Wilson either left or was fired, depending on who you ask.

"It's extra sweet," Westcott said. "We've been through so much. We threw a team together the last minute, and for a team to come together like that and put something like this together so spectacularly, it's amazing."

And then there is third Karen Fallis, who only joined the team after Christmas and only because Overton-Clapham's regular third, Breanne Meakin, is skipping Team Manitoba at the Canadian Juniors this week.

Fallis, a 2002 Manitoba women's champion with Jones, was phenomenal in the playoffs -- and especially in the final. "I've just had so much fun playing with everyone," Fallis said. "I haven't curled competitively in a few years and hardly travelled. So to get on this team, it was exciting."

Overton-Clapham says Fallis will curl third for the squad in P.E.I., while Meakin will be the fifth.

It was a hard loss to swallow, meanwhile, for a Carey foursome that had been perfect in every way coming into the final.

They were the only undefeated team remaining at this event at 8-0 -- Overton was 7-2 -- and they also carried a perfect 5-0 season record against Overton-Clapham into the big game.

What's more, it was yet another broken dream for Carey third Kristy Jenion, who has lost all three provincial finals in which she's appeared -- 2005, 2006 and 2011.

Jenion was shaken. "What can I say?" she said. "It's another one lost."

Carey was inconsolable. "It's awful. Being 8-0 and losing the final. I can't think of a worse way to end it. It's brutal. I'm devastated, every bad word I can think of. Maybe eventually I'll look back on it (as a positive experience), but I can't see it."

The game ultimately turned on the seventh end. Tied 3-3 with Carey holding the hammer, the teams covered the four-foot in granite and a total of 14 rocks were in play by the end's conclusion.

Fallis won the end, making a pair of perfect freezes that ultimately had Carey needing a difficult tap to the button against two Overton-Clapham counters.

The tap slid too far, handing Overton-Clapham a decisive steal of two.

But Overton-Clapham saved her best for last. With Carey trailing 5-4 in the ninth end but lying two behind cover, Overton-Clapham executed a spectacular triple-raise takeout with the last rock of the end to snatch a single and get out of the end two ahead.

The crowd erupted -- and a lone voice yelled out what everyone in the place was thinking at that moment: "Look out Jenny!"

Overton-Clapham glanced over at the man. And then she smiled.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2011 C1

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