Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Within an inch, the story of her life

Class and humour from the third who's now 0-4 in provincial finals

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PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE -- She's becoming best known in Manitoba curling as the woman who simply cannot -- despite some exceptional performances over the years -- find a way to win a Manitoba women's curling championship.

With a 6-5 loss to Jennifer Jones in the final of the 2012 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts here Sunday afternoon, Chelsea Carey third Kristy McDonald is now 0-4 in provincial finals and has lost the last two in a row.

But instead of her hard-luck record in finals, what was most notable about McDonald in the wake of the latest defeat here yesterday was the remarkable class -- and good humour -- she showed afterward.

"It's humourous because it's almost cruel," McDonald laughed as she faced reporters questions yet again. "I'd rather roll around in manure than be here right now dealing with this. Whatever. I knew it would be a tough year to win anyways. And it's actually brutal to be within an inch...

"I said to the girls we better win the Olympics after this because this is just crazy. I mean four finals. I'm racking up quite the resumé of losing. But what can you do?... When your best isn't good enough, what do you do? At least I can talk. Last year I couldn't even speak because I was completely in shock."

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So how little can you practise over the course of a winter and still win a Manitoba women's curling championship? Two weeks, apparently.

That was all the preparation time Jones second Jill Officer had in advance of this year's Manitoba Scotties after taking the entire winter off from curling to have a baby in mid-December.

And yet there Officer was yesterday, hoisting yet another championship trophy. "I didn't feel that was my best game," said Officer, "but the girls hung in there and made some big shots -- Jen and (third) Kaitlyn (Lawes) especially."

Watching from behind the scoreboard here last week was Jones fifth Jennifer Clark-Rouire, who played in place of Officer this winter but stood down for the provincial Scotties.

She was gracious, as always. "It was so hard to watch, especially because I played so much more this year," said Clark-Rouire. "I know what it's like to be out there with them now. I'm so happy being back there and I just wanted Jill to play well and be comfortable."

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Jones third Kaitlyn Lawes played in a Canadian women's curling championship final last year, but it wasn't until Sunday that she actually won her first Manitoba women's title.

"It's kind of strange when you put it that way," said Lawes, "but I guess that's true, isn't it?

The two-time Canadian junior champion got to go to last year's national Scotties as the replacement for previous Jones third Cathy Overton-Clapham on the defending Canadian champion, but now has a Manitoba women's title of her own to put on the mantle.

"Jen is such a great last-shot maker. We were just hoping that we'd have a shot to win in the end and we did and she made it," said Lawes. "I'm so proud of Jen. I don't know how she does it. She's so good at those pressure moments. If anyone could throw that rock, I'd want it to be her."

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Teams that go to multiple national Scotties get more and bigger diamonds each time they compete. But Jones lead Dawn Askin already has the one diamond she really wanted.

Askin and her longtime boyfriend, fellow competitive curler Mike McEwen, got engaged on Boxing Day. A summer wedding in 2013 is planned.

"He waited until after Christmas to throw me off," Askin laughed. "I figured once Christmas was over, he wasn't going to do it. And then he asked me. I'm super excited. It's great."

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Jennifer Jones can expect to be the favourite to win when she plays at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer, Alta., Feb. 18-26.

Team Canada's Amber Holland -- who beat Jones in last year's final -- appears to be on paper the strongest challenger Jones will face in a field in Red Deer that will be absent of such traditional Scotties heavyweights as Shannon Kleibrink, Cheryl Bernard, Stephanie Lawton, Sherry Middaugh and Rachel Homan.

Here's what the field looks like:

BC -- Kelly Scott

Alberta -- Heather Nedohin

Saskatchewan - Michelle Englot

Manitoba - Jennifer Jones

Ontario - Tracy Horgan

Quebec - Marie-France Larouche

New Brunswick - Andrea Kelly

Nova Scotia - Heather Smith-Dacey

Newfoundland and Labrador - Heather Strong

PEI - Kim Dolan

NWT/Yukon - Kerry Galusha

Team Canada - Amber Holland

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2012 C4

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