'A different team' today

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

Sure, Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton is still hoping to erase the bitter memory of losing the 2005 Canadian Curling Trials final next week.

But at least, he got that far the last time.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones stormed into the 2005 trials in Halifax as the heavy favourite to win and head to the Olympics. But, as you may recall, she suddenly suffered a severe attack of kidney stones. She was in so much pain that she had to be hospitalized overnight and given morphine.

Although Jones never missed a game, you can't blame her for wondering what might have been if she had remained healthy. After all, she headed into Halifax on a high after winning her first Canadian women's championship on perhaps the best shot ever made in women's curling.

"That was a disaster, wasn't it?" third Cathy Overton-Clapham conceded rather reluctantly recently. "We had a good start to the week, then we had a little downfall when Jen wasn't well. But we still weren't out of it at the end of the week. We still had a chance and I think we're a different team than we were then. We're more prepared in so many different ways. But I'm not trying to remember those trials at all ... Jen's (illness) affected it a little bit and that was disappointing."

Jones, who still posted a 5-4 record, admitted that it was indeed bad timing.

"But you can't control that," she said. "I would liked to have known what would have happened if we had all been healthy but you can't live like that or you would drive yourself crazy. You've just got to move forward and since the trials in 2005, we've gotten so much better as a team ... I think we're stronger now because of it."

That's should be scary for the other seven teams that will also be trying to win their way into the Olympics at the trials that start in Edmonton this Sunday. Since those trials, Jones has won another two Canadian crowns, a world title, a Canada Cup and two Players' Championships.

Jones was also the first to qualify for the 2009 trials.

"I know the teams that just qualified (at the pre-trials) think that they're at an advantage," Overton-Clapham cautioned. "I think, since we qualified a couple of years ago, we're at an advantage because there were some things that we could work on prior."

Either way, making it to the Olympics is the only thing missing on the Jones resume to date.

"It would be a dream for anyone to go and play in it, especially in Canada, and to be a part of a huge team with the rest of the Canadians would be something pretty special," Overton-Clapham said. "We've worked hard but, it's not all about the Olympics for me. I love to go play. I love the competition. I love the friendships we've made and I love the competitiveness of it. I don't think the Olympics is the be-all and end-all for me. But it would be something quite nice for me to play in."

Should Jones win, she will have another decision to make as the reigning Canadian champion who has an exemption into this year's nationals. The CCA announced last year that the runner-up would replace Jones as Team Canada at this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts if she earned the right to compete at the Olympics. Jones, however, claimed that is not necessarily true as the Scotties do not conflict with the Olympics.

"That's not what they told us at the Scotties last year," Jones said. "They said it would be the decision of the team ... Hopefully, we'll be in that position where we'll have to decide."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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