Playing to win for their mom

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Life flows on within you and without you.

-- The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's.

Life flows on for Saskatoon sisters Stefanie Lawton and Marliese Kasner.

They've been through a lot of battles together. Both were members of the 2000 Canadian junior championship team that won silver at the worlds when Stefanie skipped.

Three years later, Marliese finished the deal when she skipped her own team to a world junior title.

Together, with Stefanie skipping and Marliese throwing third rocks, they followed up their first-ever appearance at the Scotties in 2005 with a third-place finish at the 2005 Olympic trials.

Building a reputation as a young, up-and-coming team, with a revamped lineup that includes second Sherri Singler and lead Lana Vey, they won the 2008 Canada Cup.

Combined with impressive outings at Grand Slam events, they nailed down enough points to claim the fourth bye spot that gave them direct entry to next month's Roar of the Rings.

"It was great," said Lawton. "We were doing exactly what we wanted to do. To not have to go through the pre-trials was a big relief."

In more ways than one.

Curling can be a cruel game. There have been more tears of frustration shed as there have been tears of joy over the game.

But life can be even crueller. The woman who had instilled a passion for the game in the sisters, their mom Linda Miller, was about to fight a battle of her own.

In November last year, Miller was diagnosed with a brain tumour. By late September, after a 10-month battle, she died at the much-too-young age of 58.

"It's never easy," said Lawton. "We have a very close family and had a lot of support for what we went through."

Somehow, even burdened with the knowledge of what their mom was enduring, the team found enough strength to represent Saskatchewan at the 2009 Scotties.

They played hard for the woman who had introduced them to the game, finished fourth and were eliminated in the 3-4 game by eventual champ Jennifer Jones.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy -- what we've been through in the past year," said Lawton. "We wanted to play hard for mom. We knew how much she loved the game. She loved to come to all the events we were in."

Lawton and her team will be in Edmonton in just over a week and, in Lawton's mind, her mom will be there with her and her sister as she always had been.

"We'll focus on what we'll have to do," said Lawton. "That's exactly what our mom wanted us to do.

"We know she'll be there watching us. She's got the best seat in the house."

The team's website, lawtoncurling.com, shows how much support there is for the team. They participated in the Brain Tumour Foundation Spring Sprint in June and raised $14,000. Having a chance to represent Canada at the Olympics would be a good way to repay all the support the team has felt.

"That's something we've dreamed about for a long time ... to represent Canada," said Lawton. "It would mean so much for us. We knew we had support from family and friends, but we also have support from people we've never even met. There's so many people who follow us.

"We're getting close to what we've been focusing on. Now that it's getting close, we'd like to make it as positive an experience as what we've done so far."

It doesn't hurt that Lawton will have its own Edmonton cheering contingent.

The sisters named local curler Beth Iskiw their fifth.

Iskiw (nee Roach) won the Canadian junior title representing Nova Scotia at the 1997 juniors and, at the event, became friends with Stefanie Lawton, who named Iskiw fifth for the 2000 world juniors. Since her move to Edmonton, Iskiw remains close friends with Lawton.

CON.GRIWKOWSKY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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