August 30, 2015


By Randy Turner

Curling

Sealed with a drink

Right from the start, Overton-Clapham and Jones felt that team thing

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. -- They first met for a drink in a Boston Pizza joint in south Winnipeg. It was April 2004.

"It was an instant kind of thing right from the start," one of them recalled. "We knew what each other was thinking without even asking."

 Right from the start, Overton-Clapham and Jones felt that team thing.

CP

Right from the start, Overton-Clapham and Jones felt that team thing.

Just one drink was all it took, in fact.

"As soon as we sat down," the other agreed, "we knew it was going to work."

So began the relationship of Cathy Overton-Clapham and skip Jennifer Jones, a curling marriage that has so far spawned four Canadian championships and one world title.

Perhaps a second worlds is in the works. The Jones foursome advanced to Friday night's Page 1-2 playoff game against Germany's Andrea Schopp at the Credit Union iPlex.

A victory would have put Team Canada directly into Sunday's final but a 6-3 loss to Schopp sent them to today's semifinal against the winner of the Page 3-4 game between Scotland and Sweden.

Although Jones is the face of the Canadian team -- she's on tissue boxes and credit card commercials between ends and is swarmed by media after each game -- it's third Overton-Clapham, just turned 40, who would need Mike Holmes to build her a trophy case.

In fact, Overton-Clapham has been in the unique position to physically bridge the gap between two Manitoba women's curling powerhouses -- Connie Laliberte in the 1990s and Jones. In the process, Cathy O, as she is affectionately known in curling circles, has now been to 12 Canadian championships, winning five times (once with Laliberte in 1995) and has a world title in 2008 with Jones.

"I never really look at the whole picture -- how many times we've been or how many times we've won," Overton-Clapham said the other day. "We don't do that at all. But we do look at the jewelry, because it's quite pretty to look at."

Ah, the jewelry, the cache of the women's championships. Overton-Clapham has enough bling to make Flavor Flav blush.

"When you win provincials, you get a necklace with four hearts," she explained. "And each year you win the provincials, you get a diamond in the heart. When you win the Canadian championship, you get a diamond ring with a quarter-carat. And if you win again, you get a half-carat, and so on."

For her fifth Canadian championship, Overton-Clapham received a bracelet with five-and-a-half carats. Oh, and don't forget the rings. Three sapphire rings with Laliberte and Janet Arnott (now the Team Canada coach) and a ruby ring with Jones for placing in the top three at nationals.

Don't forget, too, that Overton-Clapham also skipped a Manitoba team to the Canadian junior title in 1989 and won a bronze at the world juniors in 1990.

What does this all mean? Well, for starters, it means Overton-Clapham's easy smile and little-girl voice mask a very grown-up competitor.

"Curling's in Cathy's blood," Arnott offered. "She lives, breathes it. It's not like she doesn't have other priorities, like her family (husband Mike and kids Andrew,11, and Mackenzie, 8), but curling is her real passion and she's a fierce competitor. I think those things go hand in hand. That's why she's such a great player.

"All the girls have a different kind of fire, but Cathy is extremely competitive at anything she does, not just curling," Arnott said.

"Even if it's just a fun thing, we could be cycling or working out and Cathy has to be the best. None of us can be better. It drives her and it's very obvious."

Go figure that when Cathy met Jennifer, the connection was immediate. Said Overton-Clapham of that first meeting:

"I knew she (Jones) was a pretty determined person and we were kind of after the same thing. We talked about the way we approached the game. We were both very similar. You just kind of know when you meet someone."

Yet for all the rings in their collection, it's the quest for the Olympic rings in Sochi, Russia, in 2014 that stand to keep Jones and Overton-Clapham together for a while yet.

"I can't see anything changing," Overton-Clapham said. "As long as we're still playing at our best and keeping up with everyone else, I don't see any reason why not.

"It is tough with the family, but they're used to it," the third added.

"They don't know any better. I think they'd be confused if I wasn't away every other weekend (during the season) and they didn't get to come to a Scotties or a worlds to watch.

"So I think it would be a lost thing now in the family if that was to happen. It was a family goal to try and go to the Olympics (in Vancouver) this year, so I think it would be an odd thing for them (not to have her curl)."

One drink in a pizza joint and the rest has been history that's still being written. Who knew?

Funny, Jones has a reputation of being a bit of a goodie-two-shoes.

Turns out, she's had a pretty good vice all along.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

SCHOPP BEATS CANADIANS, EARNS BERTH IN FINAL D5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2010 D1

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