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Roar of the Rings

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tale of an underdog

Expectant mom Kristy McDonald has paid her dues, including four gut-wrenching losses in Manitoba finals; on Sunday, she begins her quest for Olympic gold at MTS Centre

Posted: 11/29/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 11/29/2013 7:07 AM | Updates

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Kristy McDonald wil have one of her biggest supporters, dad Bob Jenion, on hand when the Carey foursome challenges the best teams in the country for the right to go to Sochi.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Kristy McDonald wil have one of her biggest supporters, dad Bob Jenion, on hand when the Carey foursome challenges the best teams in the country for the right to go to Sochi. Photo Store

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For full scoring information, go to the Canadian Curling Association Site.

So how about this for a potential Olympic headline -- Winnipeg woman, seven months pregnant, wins Olympic gold?

That'd sell a few newspapers.

And it could happen -- Chelsea Carey third Kristy McDonald revealed Thursday she will have a baby on board when she takes to the ice with her Winnipeg team at the MTS Centre on Sunday for the first draw of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, which will determine Canada's men's and women's curling representatives for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

McDonald, 34, says she's currently four months pregnant, which would put her somewhere around the seven-month mark the day they're handing out Olympic medals at the curling venue in Sochi in late February.

That's a long journey from here to there, of course. But the late, great Olympic gold medallist Sandra Schmirler once said she curled her very best when she was pregnant because it improved her balance -- in every sense of that word.

McDonald, long one of the fiercest competitors in the Manitoba women's game, is hoping for a similar baby bounce, noting just the news she's about to become a mother for the first time has already given her a better sense of equilibrium, on and off the ice. And that, she says, can only help when the lights and TV cameras get hot, and a national television audience tunes in, come Sunday.

"It was a pleasant surprise -- and a welcome one," McDonald said. "And it's really helping to give me perspective right now -- I've got a lot of things coming up in my life other than curling."

Casual fans of curling will better know McDonald by her maiden name, Jenion. And to the degree they know her, it's most likely not for what she's won over the years -- Manitoba junior titles in 1996 and 1999 -- but rather for what she's lost -- a heart-wrenching four Manitoba women's finals.

Those losses would all quickly be forgotten, however, with a win in the women's final on Dec. 7, says her father and former Manitoba men's champion, Bob Jenion.

"Any past disappointments -- and she's had her share," said Jenion, "would be all swept away with a win in this.

"And I think she's ready. She's throwing the rock really well. And I think she's very mentally strong right now."

If you like an underdog tale, you love McDonald. And if you believe good things should happen to people who have paid their dues, then you'll want to be cheering on a woman who's arguably paid more than any other curler in the province the last 15 years.

"It's a rewarding moment for me," said McDonald, "because I struggled for such a long time to break through. More than a lot of curlers, really. I was out on the World Curling Tour for years paying thousands of dollars out of my own pocket -- my teammates too -- and not winning anything.

"You know, we'd get close, but we'd never be quite good enough, never quite close enough. And so this event is a big accomplishment for me. I'm really grateful just to have this opportunity because I know it's not easy. I know how hard it is to be successful in curling and how so many factors are involved.

"I'm just glad I finally got a chance to prove myself at this level. I'm just glad to finally have a chance."

And make no mistake, she does have a legitimate chance. While oddsmakers this week annointed the Carey team the second-longest shot on the board at 16-1 to win, it bears noting that the last two women's teams to represent Canada in curling at the Olympics were also long shots heading into the Trials -- Cheryl Bernard in 2010 and Shannon Kleibrink in 2006.

It not only can be done, it has been done. And if it doesn't happen for McDonald -- if this Trials event goes down as yet another disappointment in a curling career filled with them, another case of being good but just not quite good enough?

Well, McDonald says curling and life -- hers, and that new one growing inside of her -- has taught her the long game.

"I've hit rock-bottom a few times already -- how much worse can it get," said McDonald with a laugh. "And the best part right now is that I don't have any baggage going into this event. This event is different because it's an even bigger accomplishment, I think, just to get to this event than it is to win a Manitoba Scotties -- just because of the amount of time and the accumulation of success that you need just to qualify.

"And I'm just not that person who's always going to wonder what if? -- if we don't make it to the Olympics. To be quite honest, it's hard for me to even grasp that concept. It's such a rare situation we find ourselves in and at the end of the week, seven teams are going to go home disappointed.

"All I'm hoping for is that it's a good week and that we're close. That's all I can ask for."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2013 C1

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Updated on Friday, November 29, 2013 at 7:07 AM CST: Replaces photo

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