Plenty of drama on curling circuit

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The 2009-10 season was one of the most frustrating in Manitoba curling history.

But there is renewed reason for optimism at the Christmas break of the current campaign.

Jennifer Jones did win her third straight Canadian crown — the first Manitoba team to turn that trick — but that success was tainted by both a failure to win the gold medal at the women’s world championship and her team’s shockingly-poor performance at the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials.

What made matters worse was Jones blaming the media for expecting her to win the gold over one of the weakest fields in years at the Worlds during a meltdown in a scrum after she won the bronze.

Jones followed that by ditching long-time third Cathy Overton-Clapham, replacing her with promising young Kaitlyn Lawes, a two-time junior Canadian champ. The revamped rink has had early success as it currently leads the money list.

So has Overton-Clapham, who formed a new team with another promising youngster, Breanne Meakin, at third and the front end that helped Jill Thurston (the comeback curler of the year) win the Manitoba title.

Chelsea Carey has also taken the new season by storm. After being featured in a Canadian curling calendar and hooking up with Kristy Jenion (who also stands out in the calendar), Carey won more cash than she has ever earned before.

Three Manitoba teams also lost national finals — Terry McNamee (Mixed), Alex Forrest (junior) and Ron Westcott (Masters) — adding to last year’s frustration.

Jeff Stoughton, who finished third at the Olympic trials, extended his record to eight Manitoba titles but failed to qualify for the playoffs at the Brier for only the third time. He then parted ways with Kevin Park and Rob Fowler, replacing them with Jon Mead and Reid Carruthers.

That new foursome has gotten off to a pretty good start. But not as good as Mike McEwen’s, who has been among the top money earners throughout the first half of the season. That includes three WCT victories and a Grand Slam win. Fowler has also returned to skipping and has impressed in the early going.

Jason Gunnlaugson and crew have had a frustrating year. Hired to help develop Russian curling, he skipped a squad to the Russian title and was then fired. Then he failed to win his Manitoba men’s rural zone. 

Off the ice, Curl Manitoba has submitted a bid to host the 2013 Canadian Curling Trials in Winnipeg. Morris also ran a successful national Mixed and the Assiniboine Memorial will host the national Masters.

A couple of curling reporters also shocked local rock-tossers. The Curler’s Resby Coutts qualified for the Masters provincials at lead for Norm Magnusson and yours truly who — believe it or not — scored an 8-ender during men’s league play at the Deer Lodge.


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