Handling pressure key to win

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:58 PM ET

TSN's Cathy Gauthier has already admitted that she will be unable to shake a certain bias towards her former Manitoba teammates at the Canadian Curling Trials in Halifax.

Yet, she was not gushing all over current Canadian champion Jennifer Jones on the eve of the Olympic qualifier which starts today.

"If (Jones' third) Cathy (Overton-Clapham) plays well, there's not another third in the field who can touch her; that will be the key," Gauthier said. "I know they did well in four spiels but people are saying they didn't have much competition in the U.S. (their last one, which they won).

"But the biggest factor will be (Nova Scotia's) Colleen (Jones). When Colleen's team is on, they're untouchable. But last year at the Scott (Tournament of Hearts), they were terrible. Maybe it was because they had already been there so often."

Gauthier, of course, played lead for Jones at last year's Scott but left the team to commit more time to her young family.

The biggest threat in Halifax, however, will be Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink.

"Even if she plays average, she's curling in the top four, her team's that good," Gauthier assessed. "But look out for (Saskatchewan's Stefanie) Lawton. These girls are very, very good and they're fearless because they're so young.

"I'd say it's going to be Kleibrink, (Jennifer) Jones, Lawton and possibly, Colleen (Jones) in the top four with lots of tie-breakers. But it doesn't look too good for (Ontario's Jo-Ann) Rizzo, I'm afraid."

The winner will most likely be the team that handles the week-long pressure the best. Gauthier recalls the tight collars when she was at the 2001 trials in Regina as a member of the TSN crew.

"I've never been to an event where you can absolutely feel the tension," she said. "And that does different things to different people. You've got more sports psychologists coming to these games than any curling competition ever before."

And, as for the men?

"You've got to go with (Alberta's Randy) Ferbey, (Kevin) Martin and (John) Morris, with a lot of teams bunched together because there's just so many good teams," she said. "(B.C.'s Jay) Peachey is in tough."

Manitoba's former world champion Kerry Burtnyk likes the Buffalo gals' chances.

"Her team seems to be playing very well," he said. "They've won two or three spiels and are going into the trials with lots of confidence. But that field is very much like the men's, there are a lot of teams capable of winning."


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