Kids come first: Gauthier

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

She is sacrificing the chance to achieve the ultimate goal in curling for the sake of her young children.

Three-time Canadian champion Cathy Gauthier has relinquished her position as lead for national champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba just seven months before the Olympic trials.

Gauthier has been separated from her husband, Ron, for two years and the two have joint custody of the kids -- Gaetanne, 8, and Jacques, 6.

"They had a very hard time when I was away at the (national) Scott (Tournament of Hearts in Newfoundland) and the world (championship in Scotland) last year," an emotional Gauthier explained yesterday. "And because of the heavy schedule we were going to have this year, there was some uncertainty as whether I would be able to parent my children when not competing and I didn't want to risk that.

FAMILY AND HEALTH

"To walk away from the biggest opportunity out there in curling, there's only two things that would make me do that -- one is family and one is health."

Last season, Gauthier and Jones scheduled their season around the weekends that Ron had custody but that would not be possible next year. She was worried about losing her share of the custody in the future if she continued that lifestyle. Though no one had made that threat, Gauthier said.

"My parents offered to move to Winnipeg from Vancouver for the winter to help me out," said Gauthier, who has completely recovered from a broken eardrum that delayed her return home from Newfoundland. "But that would have meant they'd (kids) been spending more time with them than with me. That wouldn't be fair to them and it wouldn't be fair to me. As much as I love curling, my children will always come first."

Gauthier, 43, is giving up a crack at qualifying for the Olympics, a return to the Scott as part of Team Canada and tax-free Olympic funding worth about $1,500 a month.

"This is absolutely the toughest year to walk away from curling," she said. "Jeepers creepers! I'm going to become one of those trivia answers on placemats."

The funding does not kick in until June 1 and Gauthier will not apply for her share. Although Jones hopes to find a replacement soon, she said the new lead will not be eligible for that carding cash.

"Your heart breaks for (Gauthier) but her kids are her life," Jones said. "Obviously, it's hard to change personnel but we're hopeful we'll find someone who is capable and will fit in."

The team will start discussing a new lead this weekend.

"Obviously, it's going to be tough to replace Cathy," said third Cathy Overton-Clapham, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on her left knee. "That chemistry is always tough to find. She's a good player with a lot of experience and a lot of fun."

"It was hard for her to juggle things last year and it was certainly a difficult decision for her to make," said second Jill Officer. "It's absolutely disappointing."

BITER: Contrary to rumours, Manitoba hall-of-fame skip Vic Peters did not undergo cancer surgery recently. He said he just had some pre-cancerous spots scraped from his cheekbone.


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