Female fantastics

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

GRANDE PRAIRIE -- Olympic medallists, world champions, Canadian champions.

The 2007 women's curling provincials, which gets underway today, has them all. Which has left the eight skips scrambling for superlatives.

"Just awesome, tough,'' said defending Alberta champ Cathy King of Edmonton.

"Really strong,'' said 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary.

"Overwhelming,'' said Calgary's Crystal Webster.

"Wow,'' said Edmonton's Deb Santos and Grande Prairie's Renee Sonnenberg.

"It's going to be an amazing experience,'' said Calgary's Heather Rankin.

"Unbelievable and awesome,'' said Edmonton's Atina Johnston.

"One of the best fields in Canada,'' said Calgary's Cheryl Bernard.

A field which includes six of the world's top 14 cashspiel teams is enough to get the gals searching their memory banks to find an equivalent.

"It's better than the 2001 Olympic Trials field,'' said Rankin, who played in that event and skipped Nova Scotia in the 1990 and 1993 Scotts.

"I don't think you're going to see better curling in Lethbridge (2007 Scotties) than this week in Grande Prairie.''

AT THE BOTTOM

Johnston may have the best technical throwers in the field, but if she had to pick her chances ...

"You could put us at the bottom,'' Johnston said.

Santos, a four-time Alberta champ, is back after a one-year absence and has a secret weapon. Last-rock thrower Heather Nedohin won her only provincial title here back in 2000.

"Every team has some credentials - Olympic, world, Canadian champions,'' said Santos. "All we can do is play the rocks. If you start looking at who you're playing, you're done.''

Never mind looking at who you're playing. It would be pretty tempting for the players to become spectators.

"I'd better start paying attention to my own games and not get too interested in the other matchups,'' said Sonnenberg. "Whoever survives this weekend, you've got to like their chances nationally.''

You'd figure when an Olympic medallist steps on the ice, that would scare some teams.

"I don't know if I could ever do that,'' said the laid-back Kleibrink.

NOT INTIMIDATING

"I know I couldn't. I'm not intimidating. In an event like this, there's a couple of teams you should beat. Those are the ones you usually lose to.''

Even defending champ, a title usually good for a win or two, would not be enough to intimidate.

"Like anything in sports, whoever's hot will end up winning this,'' said King.

"I don't mind playing against the best. There's no relaxing here.''

Hold onto your hats.

This could be one wild ride.

---

CONMAN PICKS 'EM

Shannon Kleibrink, Calgary, 3-1 ...................... Olympic medallist

Cathy King, Edmonton, 3-1 ................................. Defending champ

Cheryl Bernard, Calgary, 4-1 ......................... tough money team

Crystal Webster, Grande Prairie, 5-1 .............. playoff contender

Renee Sonnenberg, Grande Prairie, 5-1 .................... knows the ice

Deb Santos, Edmonton, 7-1 .............................. has won it before

Heather Rankin, Calgary, 10-1 ............................ in a tough field

Atina Johnston, 12-1 ................................................ it's OK with her


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