HALIFAX -- It was back in 1988 when a little ball of fire knee-high to a curling rock came bouncing off the Deer Lodge Curling Club ice as the youngest curler to ever qualify for the Manitoba junior women's championship.
"I was 11," Kelly Scott (nee MacKenzie) recalled here yesterday. "There's some kind of record in Manitoba that I played in the most playdowns there. I don't know what it is."
Scott qualified every other year she was in juniors, too -- including 1995 when she won both the national and world championship.
Scott, now 28, has since moved to Kelowna, B.C., but she will have a lot of Bison fans cheering her on when her foursome plays in tomorrow's Canadian Curling Trials final, with the winner representing Canada at the 2006 Olympics in Italy. That's a long way from Deer Lodge, baby.
Scott finished first with a 7-2 record, getting the bye into that final.
"I've had just the best week," said Scott, supported by third Jeanna Schraeder, second Sasha Carter and Renee Simons. "I've just enjoyed myself so much and the ice conditions are so unreal, it's just a treat to be out there. The fans are great and basically, just playing in a venue like this is the reward for taking every last holiday from work and going to remote, small cashspiels.
Chance in a million
"We started (with) the goal of going to the Olympics. It was a chance in a million. It was a chance in 10 this week. Now, we're down to a 50% chance. So, you've got to be happy with that."
Yes, Scott is still as sweet as she was at just 11, and not much taller.
"Yes, she is very sweet," said Carter (nee Bergner), who played lead for Scott in '95. "She smiles with daggers now.
"She's a very determined little girl. She's got a fire in her belly about winning and about curling."
Scott will get both the hammer and choice or rocks for the final, to be televised by CBC at noon.
"It's a sense of confidence starting out that game with hammer," she said. "And we get a few practice sessions on that sheet. So, I think we're happy with where we're at right now. It's a matter of keeping our emotions in check."
Although Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink, Ontario's Sherry Middaugh and Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton finished tied with 6-3 records, Kleibrink was awarded second because she had beaten both in the round robin. Middaugh faces Lawton in a tie-breaker in a game to be televised by TSN today at 6:30 a.m. The winner advances to the semifinal versus Kleibrink, to be telecast by TSN at 11 a.m.
Kleibrink lost the 1997 Olympic trials final to Saskatchewan's Sandra Schmirler.
"The right team won that one," graciously offered Kleibrink, adding that she had the same record then. "We actually came here to win it. Even when we were 1-3, we knew we could beat these teams here. We just had to step up our game."
Middaugh heads into the playoffs on two straight wins while Lawton had two consecutive losses.
"So, we've got the momentum going in," Middaugh suggested.
"We played two teams in do-or-die situations," countered Lawton. "We knew we had a playoff spot. It's not a big deal. Now, we've got to play a lot of games, build some momentum and work our way up."