SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. -- The good people of Ashern haven't forgotten Sasha Carter, and she hasn't forgotten them.
Carter, raised in the Interlake community about two hours north of Winnipeg, was all smiles Wednesday morning when her hometown was mentioned at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
It provided just the happy thoughts the British Columbia second needed after a tough, last-rock loss to Saskatchewan as the national women's curling championship gets down to crunch time here.
Carter, who has lived and curled in Kelowna for a decade, doesn't just have fond memories of Ashern. The community occupies a large chunk of her heart and soul.
"I try and go back home three or four times a year," said Carter, 35, who admits most of her Facebook friends live in Ashern, so she can keep tabs on family and friends. "It's a special place. My grandparents are there and they're getting older, and I love getting back to see them. It's strange that I have this huge following in Ashern. It's very cool."
She will return to Ashern this summer for a major event, and Carter, the 1995 world junior and 2007 world women's champion with B.C.'s Kelly Scott, will be the centre of attention.
"The small town of Ashern will be putting up this billboard...'The home of Sasha Carter,' " she said with a grin. "Yes, I'm the pride of Ashern. It's very, very sweet of them."
Carter said she's not certain where the billboard will be situated.
Will she get better play than the five-metre stone statue of a sharp-tailed grouse that welcomes visitors to Ashern, symbolic of the area's allure as a hunter's paradise?
"Not sure," she laughs. "I remember growing up, the town had some money and they could either put in a pool or that gigantic grouse. Well, they chose the grouse. I guess the Sasha Carter billboard is the next thing on the list.
"I'm like, 'Just put a little plaque on the curling club. It doesn't have to be anything big.' But it's very sweet."
Carter left Ashern about 10 years ago, following her best friend Scott to the Okanagan Valley. The two had curled together as juniors and reached the pinnacle, winning a Canadian crown and then the world title in 1995.
Carter, whose maiden name is Bergner (one of Ashern's oldest families), said after obtaining a teacher's degree and travelling Europe, she decided in 2000 to put down some roots in B.C.
"I was only curling recreationally with my sister. Kelly was curling in Kelowna and she said, 'Why not try B.C.?' So I went out there and was in a wedding party in the summer of 2000 and I never left," said Carter, who works as a business manager for the Peacock Sheridan Group, a financial services company. "I kind of moved out there for curling, but also for her and I to be together again. We're best friends."
The two have since won a pair of Scotties women's titles and a world championship in 2007 in Japan.
They also came within a whisker of qualifying for the 2006 Winter Olympics, losing in the Canadian Trials final to Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink. The Scott team refocused and set its sights on the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but that road ended in disappointment at the Trials in December.
Carter said the team, with third Jeanna Schraeder and lead Jacquie Armstrong, will take a little breather the next two curling seasons before resuming the Olympics dream.
"We need a break. Our families are wanting a little bit more of our time," said Carter, whose husband, Greg, is originally from Peterborough, Ont. The couple has no children. "But we will definitely gear up for 2014 (in Sochi, Russia). That's the beauty of our sport. We are still young enough."
"I had a little say in how the billboard was going to look," she adds. "I was like, 'Leave a little spot in the bottom, because maybe there'll be a line 'Olympic champion' in there yet."
Scotties Tournament of Hearts
Saskatchewan 5 B.C. 4
Canada 9 Quebec 4
Nfld/Lab. 11 Alberta 4
Manitoba 10 Ontario 5
Nfld/Lab. 9 New Brunswick 7
NWT/Y 7 Ontario 5
Saskatchewan 5 Nova Scotia 2
P.E.I. 7 Quebec 3
P.E.I. 9 Canada 5
B.C. 8 Nova Scotia 7 (extra end)
Manitoba 8 NWT/Y 6
New Brunswick 9 Alberta 3
Quebec 020 011 00x x -- 4
Canada 401 200 11x x -- 9
Manitoba 012 132 001 x-- 10
Ontario 200 000 210 x -- 5
Canada 010 201 100 0 -- 5
P.E.I. 001 020 022 2 -- 9
Manitoba 010 121 020 1-- 8
NWT/Y 101 000 301 0 -- 6
Draw 15, 9:30 a.m.
Nova Scotia vs. Ontario
Nfld/Lab. vs. P.E.I.
New Brunswick vs. Quebec
Saskatchewan vs. NWT/Y
Draw 16, 2 p.m.
NWT/Y vs. Alberta
Manitoba vs. N.B.
P.E.I. vs. B.C.
Canada vs. Nova Scotia
Draw 17, 6:30 p.m.
Manitoba vs. Quebec
Saskatchewan vs. Alberta
Canada vs. Ontario
Nfld/Lab. vs. B.C.