Home team not feeling pressure

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

While it's a safe bet more people will be watching her play this week than usually see her league games, Highland's Ruth Alexander isn't feeling any added pressure playing for an Ontario senior curling title at her home club.

Alexander and her rink of Gayle George, Sue Dittmer and Jill Bezaire form the only London-area content in either the men's or women's fields, which send their winners to the Canadian championships March 19-27 in East St. Paul, Man.

"Excited more than nervous," Alexander said yesterday about being the home-club favourite. "We're very prepared.

"Getting to this point has been our goal for over a year. We started curling in August, we went to a high-performance camp in Guelph, we've played in a couple of cashspiels and between 50 and 75 league games, so we're ready.

"We've had a little taste already of being the (crowd) favourite. The regionals were in Ilderton and we had great representation from Highland. It felt great, but during the games, I'm pretty oblivious to the people behind the glass."

One notable name missing from the women's event is defending champion and three-time winner Anne Dunn of Galt, who will be representing Canada at the world senior women's in Glasgow, Scotland, at the same time as the Canadian seniors.

"With her out of the way, this is anybody's tournament to win," Alexander said. "The good thing is we know we're playing right through to the end of the round-robin Saturday, but now our goal is to make it to Sunday."

Also competing in the women's event are Anne Gray of Burlington, Joyce Potter of Ottawa Rideau, Marg Cole of Toronto St. George's, Cindy Lew of Orangeville, Dale Curtis of Guelph, Diane Harris of Ottawa City View and Pat Reid of Toronto Avonlea.

On the men's side, the favourite has to be 2001 champ Axel Larsen of Guelph, who returns with his rink of Walter Johnson, Gerry Sundwall and Kent Carstairs. Larsen also played in the 1994 Ontario men's championship in St. Thomas, losing to Russ Howard in the final, and Carstairs was Howard's lead on his 1980, 1986, 1987 and 1989 Ontario men's champions, winning a Canadian and world title in 1987.

Larry Snow of Durham, Paul Barnett of Whitby, Gary Smith of Ottawa, Frank Gowman of Galt, Bob Edmondson of Oakville, Layne Noble of Rideau and Bruce Park of Brant are the other men's entries.

Favourites eliminated

Kathy Brown of Sutton won the A side and Chrissy Cadorin of Guelph took the B side at the Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts Challenge Round during the weekend at Thornhill Bayview, with three-time and defending champ Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, four-time titleist Anne Merklinger of Ottawa Rideau and 2003 champ Anne Dunn of Galt all eliminated along the way.

Middaugh had an agonizing end to the 16-rink, double-knockout event, losing to Brown in the A final and Cadorin in the B final.

Brown and Cadorin advance to the Ontario STOH Jan. 24-30 at Rideau, along with Jo-Ann Rizzo of Brant, Kim Moore of North Halton, Jenn Hanna of Ottawa, Janet McGhee of Uxbridge and four Northern Ontario rinks.

Rinks up to challenge

Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa RCMP, the 2003 Ontario men's champion, and Greg Balsdon of Guelph Country won the men's East and West Challenge Rounds yesterday at Gananoque and Markdale, respectively. They advance to the Kia Cup provincial championship Feb. 7-13 in Whitby.

Daw rink wins opener

London's Chris Daw opened the world wheelchair curling championship with a 5-2 win over Jens Jager of Germany yesterday in Glasgow. Daw stole two in the second end and a single in the third to take a 4-0 lead in the six-end game. Daw, third Bruce McAninch and lead Karen Blachford are from London and second Jim Primavera is from Toronto. Canada takes on Switzerland and Sweden today.

ONTARIO SENIORS

Tomorrow: Women's first draw, 10 a.m.; men's first draw, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Women's draws at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; men's draws at 12:30 and 8 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: Men's draws at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; women's draws at 12:30 and 8 p.m.

Sunday: Semifinals, 9:30 a.m.; women's final, 1:30 p.m. (Rogers); men's final, 5 p.m. (Rogers)


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