Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cathy O, we'll miss you so

'Semi-retiring' from curling, might spare now and then

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Winnipeg skip Cathy Overton-Clapham isn't calling it retirement, exactly.

But semi-retirement would seem to be a word that would fit.

Overton-Clapham told the Free Press Friday afternoon she informed her team this week she will no longer be curling with them and has decided to "step away for a while."

"It's really hard to take. I just feel I wasn't able to fill the role as a skip. It just wasn't the right position for me," Overton-Clapham said. "I'm going to step away for a while. I wouldn't call it retirement, exactly. Maybe I will spare next year. That could be fun."

Overton-Clapham, 43, is a five-time Canadian champion and a former world champion. Her most recent team, which includes third Jenna Loder, second Ashley Howard and lead Breanne Meakin, struggled at the recent Manitoba women's championship in Stonewall, missing the playoffs.

Those struggles capped a terrible season for the team. After qualifying for the playoff round in their first event in September, the squad missed the playoffs in each of their last seven events and earned just $3,000 the entire season.

It was a shocking turnaround for a squad that had played well enough in their first season together in 2011-12 to earn a coveted berth into a pre-Trials competition this November, at which the final berths into the Canadian Curling Trials at the MTS Centre the following month will be determined.

Nothing is more important to Canadian curlers right now than qualifying to play at the MTS Centre, where the country's men's and women's curling representatives for the Winter Olympics in Sochi next February will be determined.

So to simply walk away as Overton-Clapham has chosen to do is stunning -- and all the more so because she is universally regarded as one of the sport's most ferocious competitors.

"Skipping, I guess, just isn't my deal," said Overton-Clapham, who won all five of her Canadian titles as a third -- four with Jennifer Jones and one with Connie Laliberte. "You saw me (in Stonewall). I struggled. I miss being at the other end. I'm disappointed with myself. I didn't fill the role, like most people do.

"I don't have a new team, I don't have any plans. I just needed to step away and reassess...

"I'm not using that word (retirement) right now," Overton-Clapham repeated. "I don't know -- maybe I will get asked to spare, see how that goes for a little bit."

Overton-Clapham's decision comes after Meakin says she told her skip that she had decided to quit the team.

"It just wasn't a good fit for me," said Meakin. "I'm looking for the right fit with another team."

Loder and Howard couldn't be reached Friday night and it wasn't immediately clear what their plans are. Howard -- the daughter of TSN analyst Russ Howard -- moved to Manitoba from New Brunswick specifically to curl with Overton-Clapham.

Overton-Clapham's abrupt decision to walk away now caps several tumultuous years for her that began back in 2010 when she was fired as third on what was at that time the three-time defending Canadian champions skipped by Jennifer Jones.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 C6

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