Cathy O still first at third

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. -- The whispers started in earnest after her team fell flat on its collective face at the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials in Edmonton.

Jennifer Jones should replace third Cathy Overton-Clapham, they demanded anonymously and even listed possible replacements on the Internet. After all, the veteran curler will not only turn 41 this summer but needed to take cortisone shots to address the pain in one knee after she had it scoped a few years back.

Give me a break.

There is no reason for 'Cathy O' to go just yet. In fact, she was leading every single third, young and old, with a rather impressive 86% shooting percentage heading into Tuesday night's draw at the women's world curling championship. Trailing her were the likes of Sweden's Sara Carlsson, Germany's Melanie Robillard and Denmark's Denise Dupont, who are all in their 20s.

And this is Overton-Clapham's fifth world championship -- a Manitoba record that started back in 1995.

"My goal is to play well," Overton-Clapham said Tuesday.

"Our goal is to play well and we're all playing well. And it's great to play at home. I think one of the biggest things for me is playing at home and having surroundings that we're familiar with."

This is the third time she has played at a women's world championship in Canada, winning the gold in Vernon, B.C. in 2008 and the silver at third for Connie Laliberte in Brandon in '95. But she does not want to settle for bronze here.

"I already have a bronze from the junior women's Worlds," said Overton-Clapham, who skipped the Canadian team in Portage la Prairie in 1990.

Overton-Clapham was also the all-star third at the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, recording an 81 percentage that topped that field.

The knee woes seem to be getting better. Overton-Clapha was getting cortisone shots twice a year, but hasn't had one since September because she hasn't needed one. She says the knee is OK as long as she takes pains to properly prepare it for game action, which she does.

As for age? Allow me to point out that Kevin Martin, who just won Olympic gold, will turn 44 this year -- and will likely take another run at the Olympic trials four years down the road. Heck, Russ Howard won Olympic gold at 50 and yes, I know, he did not sweep; Cathy does.

And believe me, the rocking chair has not beckoned the greatest women's third in Manitoba history -- and one of the best in the world.

"As long as I can keep playing at the level I can curl, I'll keep playing," Overton-Clapham told The Sun before the Scotties.

"As long as I can continue to keep up with everybody else, I'll be around," Overton-Clapham told Larry Wood, editor of the CCA's Eye Opener periodical here this week.

She also denied having anything to prove to anyone here.

"I love to curl," said Overton-Clapham, who usually plays her best games after a rare poor outing. "It's what I do."

Allow me to remind you how Overton-Clapham first hooked up with Laliberte. Third Karen Purdy had just suffered a freak injury after winning the provincial championship and Laliberte asked the rest of her team to write the name of the best third in Manitoba who could possibly replace Purdy at the nationals. Each one wrote down the same name and Overton-Clapham then helped them win the '95 Canadian crown.

Funny thing is, 15 years later, you can bet that any team asked to the same thing today would come up with the same name. In fact, I cannot think of anyone else who could come close.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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