CHARLOTTETOWN -- Lost amidst all the discussion this winter surrounding the feud between Cathy Overton-Clapham and Jennifer Jones has been the woman who replaced Overton-Clapham on Team Canada -- Kaitlyn Lawes.
The question heading into today's start of the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is whether Lawes has the mental toughness to compete on the second-biggest stage there is for women's curling?
The Scotties is a forum where Overton-Clapham has always thrived, winning five Canadian titles over the years, and where Lawes will now have to fill the void if the Jones team is going to win their fourth straight title.
"I'm nervous but also excited," Lawes said Friday. "It didn't hit me for a long time. I've known for months that I was coming, but without competing at provincials it was like it wasn't real.
"But in the last few weeks, realizing I was actually coming here, I've gotten very excited."
Lawes suggested that perhaps being a Scotties rookie will work to her advantage playing on the pressure cooker of Team Canada. "I think I'm maybe a little naive to everything that's going on," she said. "I'm used to the TV cameras having played at the Continental Cup. And I don't really pay attention to the crowd anyway. I have no idea how many people will be watching."
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Lawes held her own in Friday's individual skills competition, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the preliminary round with 20 of a possible 30 points.
Lawes will be joined by Jennifer Jones and Cathy Overton-Clapham here this morning in the quarterfinal round of the skills competition. Jones and Overton-Clapham finished in a four-way tie for fifth place with 19 points each.
The remainder of the eight qualifiers today are Saskatchewan's Amber Holland, P.E.I.'s Robyn MacPhee, Alberta's Bronwen Webster, Ontario's Alison Kreviazuk and Quebec's Marie-France Larouche.
Holland is attempting today to win a two-year lease on a car for the second year in a row.
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Ashern's Sasha Carter is 33 weeks pregnant and fully aware of the challenge she faces here in attempting to curl a week-long bonspiel.
"Throwing a rock is fine," said Carter, second for B.C.'s Kelly Scott. "It will be the sweeping, playing two games in a row -- Can I still throw a rock as good after that?
"We're going to be more of a five-man team."
B.C. has Kelley Law second Shannon Alexsic as their fifth player here and Carter said they will not hesitate to insert Alexsic into the lineup.
"We're going to play it more by ear," said Carter. "Who knows -- I could play the first game and then no more after that."
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The Canadian Curling Association announced Friday that they have created a new all-around curling championship that will be awarded to the province that annually does the best in eight national curling competitions.
To be called the Dominion Cup, provinces will earn points for their order of finish in the mixed, senior men's, senior women's, junior men's, junior women's, Brier, Scotties and wheelchair.
The concept is sure to draw some fire for the CCA's decision to weight each competition equally -- meaning, for instance, a first place finish in the senior women's will be worth the same number of points to a province as winning the Scotties.
The CCA has also announced a Governor's Cup that will be awarded to the province who improves the most from year to year.