Jones brings in ringer

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

By George, they went all the way to the Left Coast to find an Olympian to replace a three-time Canadian champ.

B.C.'s Georgina Wheatcroft, who won an Olympic bronze medal at second for Kelley Law in 2002, will replace Cathy Gauthier at lead for Team Canada's Jennifer Jones at the Olympic trials and the events leading up to them.

"It's kinda crazy, huh?" Wheatcroft said from her Clearwater, B.C. home yesterday. "It's pretty exciting and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm just elated they chose me."

'RIPPLE EFFECT'

Gauthier quit the team over concerns about spending time with her two young children.

"It's a ripple effect," said Wheatcroft, 39. "Someone else's misfortune led to my fortune. I feel bad for Cathy because she was the one who won the spot."

According to the Canadian Curling Association rules, Jones was allowed to pick any player in the country to replace Gauthier at the Canadian Curling Trials, but she must find a Manitoban to replace Gauthier at the national Scott Tournament of Hearts.

"We're really focusing on the trials right now and haven't gotten that far," Jones said.

"(Wheatcroft) just has so much to offer. She's a great person, a great player and a great sweeper. And she's been to the Olympics -- there's not too many women who can say that."

Wheatcroft, who made the initial contact, played with Cathy Overton-Clapham's sister, Kim Overton, when Kim lived in B.C.

"George has a ton of experience and that's huge when it comes to the trials," said Overton-Clapham, who played third for Manitoba's Connie Laliberte at the 1997 trials. "It was quite an eye-opener. It's really different than playing in the Scott. And our No. 1 goal right now is to get ready for the trials."

Although Wheatcroft also has two young children, she has plenty of support at home and realizes that she will have to travel extensively this fall.

"I have lots of Air Miles," she said. "I'm committed and when you're committed, you find a way."

The squad also has plenty of sponsorship support.

Although Gauthier was eligible for Olympic funding, Wheatcroft will not be.

"You're joking, right?" Gauthier responded to the news. "Really? Wow!

"Maybe they couldn't find somebody in the province they could all agree on. There's a lot of good players in Manitoba but if they've never played at a Scott or the trials, you don't know how they will react. And that whole Olympic experience won't be new to George."

But with second Jill Officer already living in Brandon, it means half the team will be out of town now.

"It's not that different than Jill living in Brandon and we made that work," said Jones, who will continue club play with others. "Jill's got a 2 1/2 -hour drive and Georgina's got a 2 1/2 -hour flight."

Wheatcroft, by the way, has not played lead since she was an all-star at the national Mixed in 1989.

Jones also announced that Janet Arnott, Laliberte's sister and Overton-Clapham's former teammate, has agreed to coach the team.


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