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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Four rookie skips vying for gold

Posted: 02/1/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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MONTREAL -- Though this is the first time Chelsea Carey, Kristy McDonald, Kristen Foster and Lindsay Titheridge have donned Team Manitoba's jacket at the Canadian women's curling championship, theirs are not the only new faces at the tournament.

There are four rookie skips at this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts. There is Yukon's Sarah Koltun, just 20 years old and the youngest skip in the show, and there is Ontario's Allison Flaxey, a former Winnipegger who now curls out of Listowel Curling Club in Listowel, Ont. She was teammates with Titheridge in 2001, when they won the Manitoba junior title along with Jenna Loder and Elizabeth Peters, and played third on Sean Grassie's 2009 Canadian championship mixed team.

Then there is British Columbia skip Kesa Van Osch, who is still marvelling at the fact she made it here.

It's a true rookie season for Van Osch, freshly turned 22, and her young team from Victoria Curling Centre, and so far they've surpassed even their own expectations. For instance, when the skipper entered her first women's provincial championship, she wasn't expecting to win.

"There's always that in your head, that possibility is there," Van Osch said Friday after the Hot Shots competition at Maurice Richard Arena. "But we went in there to learn and see if we could make playoffs."

Not only did they make the playoffs, but they blazed their way to an 8-1 record in the round robin and toppled curling veteran and eight-time Scotties contender Kelly Scott in the final to earn their ticket to Montreal. Even in La Belle Province, that was still sinking in.

"We were never expecting to be at the Scotties in our first year together," said Van Osch, grinning. "It doesn't usually happen like that. Every day seems a little more real."

Even more surprising is that Van Osch doesn't come from one of curling's many vaulted clans. She picked up the sport as a kid, when her brother dragged her along to a spring-break curling camp.

The first couple of tries didn't go so well: "I hated it," she said with a laugh.

But then she started getting good -- and now, she balances throwing rocks with filling cups, as she works as a supervisor at a Starbucks. Her co-workers are supportive -- even if they don't entirely understand.

"They're all 'Wow, you're going to what?' " said Van Osch. "And I have to explain about curling, but they're excited."

-- Martin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2014 C9

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