MANITOBA will be extraordinarily well represented in the playoff round today at the richest annual women's curling bonspiel in the province -- the $60,000 Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Women's Curling Classic at Fort Rouge Curling Club.
Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones, Janet Harvey, Barb Spencer and Jill Thurston are among the final eight teams standing from an original field of 32. Joining them in this morning's quarter-finals will be Russia's Anna Sidorova, Switzerland's Michelle Jaggi and Silvana Tirinzoni and Calgary's Crystal Webster.
Even the Webster team has a Winnipeg connection, with longtime Winnipeg curler Cathy Overton-Clapham at third.
Jones and Sidorova qualified from the A-side on Saturday, while Harvey and Jaggi qualified from the B-side Sunday afternoon. The remaining four qualifiers all came from the C-side Sunday evening.
Thurston had the toughest trip to the playoffs, losing her first two games but then winning four straight on the C-side. Spencer needed three wins in a row on the C-side to qualify, including a 5-4 victory Sunday night over an upstart Michelle Montford rink who defeated top-ranked Chelsea Carey, 2009 world champion Bingyu Wang and 2011 Canadian champion Amber Holland in succession over the weekend only to lose back-to-back qualifying games on Sunday.
Carey got wins on Sunday over Winnipeg's Kim Link and reigning world champion Eve Muirhead of Scotland to stay alive, but the Olympic trials-bound foursome was eliminated in a qualifying game by Tirinzoni.
Draw times at Fort Rouge today will see the quarter-finals go at 10 a.m., the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. and the final at 5 p.m. First place is worth $15,000, second place is $10,000, third and fourth place is $6,000 apiece and the four quarterfinal losers all earn $3,700.
Elsewhere in curling on Sunday, Winnipeg's Mike McEwen continued his dominance of the men's tour with an 8-0 thrashing of Switzerland's Sven Michel in the final of the $70,000 Cactus Pheasant Classic in Brooks, Alta.
It was the second win in as many weeks for McEwen, who also won the Canad Inns Prairie Curling Classic in Portage La Prairie a week ago.
McEwen also finished second in his first event of the year, the StuSells Toronto Tankard.
McEwen picked up $22,000 with Sunday's win. Brandon's Rob Fowler was the only other Manitoba team to qualify for the playoffs in Brooks. Fowler lost a quarter-final game to McEwen Saturday evening.