'Wicked Witch' is back

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:42 PM ET

Call it the 10-year itch.

In 1986, Marilyn Bodogh set the curling world on its ear as she flamboyantly won the Ontario, Canadian and world women's curling titles, the national crown coming in London.

In 1996, she did the treble again.

And this year, the woman who once called herself "the Wicked Witch of the West" has advanced to another Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts, her first since 1999. She won the A side of the West Region playdowns last weekend at St. Thomas to earn one of four berths at the provincials starting Jan. 24 in Fort Frances.

And here's two more omens -- the 2006 Hearts are in London (this time at the John Labatt Centre, Feb. 25 to March 5) and the 2007 Hearts are in Lethbridge, Alta., as they were in 1987.

Ironically, Bodogh wasn't in St. Thomas. She was doing TV commentary on the BDO Canadian Open men's cashspiel in Winnipeg. Her former third, Kathy Chittley-Young (Kathy McEdwards back in 1986) stepped in admirably.

Yesterday, Bodogh couldn't say enough about her teammates -- Michelle Gray, Kelly MacIntosh and Danielle Garner -- who are all young enough "to be my daughters-in-law."

"The funny thing is they picked me, I didn't pick them," Bodogh said. "I turned 50 earlier this year and went to Greece for three weeks. When I got back, there were a few e-mails on my website from people wanting me to spare for them or play with them.

"One of them was from Michelle Gray -- she's going to be a world champion one day, for sure -- saying, 'We need a skip and we want you.' "

And the new mix has rekindled something in Bodogh.

"It's not that I'm rejuvenated -- you'll never have to rejuvenate me -- but I feel the fire in my belly again.

"I've played with some great players in the past, but we'd never quite get there. We'd have great cash seasons and then get to playdowns and it's, 'What happened?'

"But these guys believe in themselves. There's so much faith on this team, so much belief, and that's not something you can work on. That's something that's just instantly there.

"I'm just enjoying this so much. They're three really intelligent girls with good family backgrounds who just give it their all. It's always nice to have everyone going in the same direction."

Bodogh will be joined in Fort Frances by 2005 national runner-up Jenn Hanna of Ottawa, Chrissy Cadorin of Guelph and Janet McGhee of Uxbridge, who were the other regional survivors. Four Northern Ontario qualifiers plus two more from the Challenge Round that started yesterday in Milton will round out the field.

"We're approaching it with a very relaxed attitude," Bodogh said. "Like we did in 1986 -- intense but relaxed, focused but smooth."

And Bodogh wouldn't be herself if she didn't have an opinion or two about women's curling.

"I'm surprised I've lasted in the game this long. I shouldn't be playing. I should be getting kicked around by a lot of good young teams, but there's not enough of them. They're not as committed, not the way we were 20 years ago.

"We can't have just one Jenn Hanna. We need five Jenn Hannas, 10 Jenn Hannas, but somewhere across the bridge something's been missed in that transition from junior.

"And Fort Frances is six hours by plane and car and that's ridiculous. Nothing against Fort Frances -- I can't wait to get there -- but you'd never see the men put someplace like that. "

So it's clear -- thankfully -- that Bodogh isn't about to change her stripes.


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