Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cathy O? No sweat

Clash of the championship Jones shrugs off upcoming match versus woman she fired last year

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Jennifer Jones says she's genuinely happy for a former teammate, but is prepared for the media circus that surely awaits her arrival in Charlottetown next week for the start of the Canadian women's curling championship.

"They're having a great year and I really am happy for them," Jones said in an interview Friday in her first public comments since her former third, Cathy Overton-Clapham, won the Manitoba women's championship last week.

"But yes, we know it's going to be an issue. We're prepared for that, just like any time you go to one of these things."

This won't be just like any other time, however. Jones made headlines last spring when she fired Overton-Clapham from her three-time defending Canadian champion squad.

The move raised eyebrows, in part because Overton-Clapham is a hall of fame curler still playing at a very high level, but also because it is so unusual to remove a player from a team that has won three straight Canadian titles.

Jones said the move was necessary as she considered the long-term interests of the team with a view to qualifying to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

But the move rankled Overton-Clapham, who went public with her displeasure at losing valuable perks this season that came with surrendering her spot on the defending champion Team Canada, including an automatic return to the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Charlottetown.

So with the two teams now set to collide for the first time since the breakup, the likelihood of a media circus breaking out on Prince Edward Island is about on par with the possibility Charlie Sheen might have a beer or two on a Friday night.

But while it might be an issue for everyone else, Jones is steadfast that it is not an issue for her.

"It's just another game in the round robin for us," Jones said of Team Canada's matchup with Manitoba's Overton-Clapham on the evening draw Feb. 23. "It's no different than any other game."

Jones said that rather than bitterness, she chooses to recall the monumental accomplishments of her time with Overton-Clapham, including Canadian titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and a world championship in 2008.

"We're so proud of everything that team did together. It was a wonderful time and hopefully we'll always remember the good time and the good things we did together.

"I really am happy for them. But in all honesty, we're focused on what we want do to do this year, not on these things in the past."

Jones said she's particularly excited to be taking a Scotties rookie to P.E.I. Kaitlyn Lawes, who replaced Overton-Clapham at third, has won Canadian junior titles but has never before curled in a Canadian women's championship.

No worries, says Jones. "Really, our goal this year was we really wanted to have some fun. We weren't worried about results at all. If we didn't win a game, it would have been OK.

"But we're having a good year and we're seeing curling through her eyes and getting to see what it's like again to go to your first Scotties.

"It reminds me of my first Scotties in Brandon (in 2002). We didn't medal there -- we finished fourth and really it was probably one of my favourite Scotties because it was my first one.

"Kaitlyn is such a lovely person and a great teammate, and that's really our goal -- to make it her best Scotties."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2011 D1

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