Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Shakeup a wake-up call

Replacing third breathes new life into 'stale' team

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CHARLOTTETOWN -- Whatever happens in the Canadian women's curling championship final against Saskatchewan today, Jennifer Jones says she feels like she has already won.

In a week when there has been intense focus on the decision by Jones last spring to fire third Cathy Overton-Clapham and replace her with Kaitlyn Lawes, Jones said Saturday that her decision to bring Lawes on board has made for a team this winter unlike any that she's known.

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"The way this team has come together over the last 10 months is one of the most special things I've ever been a part of," said Jones. "To feel that you're part of this team, where every day, you're cheering for your team as hard as you've ever cheered for anything -- it's just been, honestly, one of the most amazing things I've ever been through.

"I just think as your team becomes stale, you just lose something. I think we've gotten something back, and it's been fun to be a part of. It's been fun to see the girls smiling so much and loving curling. Not that we didn't have that before, but I think you lose that over time, and now we've got it back."

If that sounds like a bit of a backhand directed at Overton-Clapham, it probably is. But it is also the continuation of a refrain that Jones has been saying all winter long -- these Team Canada girls just want to have fun.

"This year was honestly all about -- if we didn't win a game, we'd have been happy. We just wanted to have fun and remember all the reasons we loved curling. It was a growing year for us," said Jones.

"But from the first time we played, it felt like we've been playing together forever. We've been having a good season. Coming into the event, we just wanted to enjoy it."

Jones said the fun for this team started right at the beginning -- and in the most inauspicious way. In the very first game for the new foursome -- at a bonspiel in Norway -- Lawes marked her Team Canada debut by hogging both of her first rocks.

"We totally laughed it off," Jones recalled. "We thought it was funny, and she actually was our MVP in that bonspiel. She played the best out of all of us. And at the end of it, I was reassuring her, saying, 'I'll definitely make more shots than that, I promise.' "

Has she ever -- and so has her entire team here this week. For the first time in memory at this event, the entire first all-star team came from one squad -- Team Canada's Jones, Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin.

Overton-Clapham, the skip of Team Manitoba, did not go home empty-handed either. The five-time Canadian champion was named by her fellow competitors as the winner of the Marg Mitchell Sportsmanship Award.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca MORE SCOTTIES COVERAGE ON PAGE 24

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2011 A23

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