Repeats rare at Alberta Scotties

Defending Alberta champion Shannon Kleibrink says the reason back-to-back championships are rare at...

Defending Alberta champion Shannon Kleibrink says the reason back-to-back championships are rare at the Scotties is because its so difficult to win it once, much less multiple times. (RAGNAR HAAGEN/QMI Agency file photo)

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

LEDUC, ALTA. - Unlike their male counterparts, it’s tough for teams to repeat the feat in Alberta women’s curling.

In the 54-year history of the provincial championship, only five skips have been able to win back-to-back titles (see fact box). Only two have won three in a row and only one was Calgary-based.

When the 2012 Alberta Scotties gets underway at the 1,100-seat Sobey’s Arena in Leduc Wednesday morning, defending champion Shannon Kleibrink will be trying to buck the odds by winning her fifth Alberta title.

“One of them was against me,” said Kleibrink. “Deb Shermack, two years in a row.

“It’s not that it’s tough to win two years back-to-back, it’s tough to win any year. If you consider, this is my 25th provincial and I’ve won, what, four? What are the chances of putting two back-to-back?”

In a sense, the unpredictability of this event adds an aura of mystery that’s unique in Canada. There are no dynasties in Alberta women’s curling and the facts point out this may be one of the most competitive fields ever.

Alberta teams hold seven of the top 12 spots in the Canadian Teams Ranking System, but none in the top five.

Cheryl Bernard holds down No. 6, spot, followed by Crystal Webster, Renee Sonnenberg, Kleibrink, 2010 champ Valerie Sweeting and Heather Nedohin.

No. 12-ranked Dana Ferguson was bounced in the SACA playdowns and is here as fifth for the Candace Wanechko crew out of Ellerslie.

That’s about as tight and as large of a grouping there ever has been.

“Part of that is a lot of the teams have played a relaxed schedule this year,” said Kleibrink. “I’ve only played two events on the Tour and the Canada Cup. We haven’t put together eight weekends in a row like we have in other years.

“I still think Alberta teams are the toughest in Canada.”

Maybe Kleibrink figured if a relaxed schedule worked for her in 2011, an even more relaxed schedule would do wonders.

“We figured ‘What the heck.’ We were going to go with the same schedule, but that went out the window,” she said with a wry smile. “We’re good to go now.”

Nedohin has a unique place in Alberta curling history.

After winning the 1996 world junior championship, Nedohin teamed up with Cathy King in her first of two back-to-back titles.

In 1998, that foursome became the only team since 1981 to bring back a Canadian title.

When she struck out on her own, Nedohin won her only Alberta title in 2000.

“We don’t want to repeat what we did last year … we placed second,” said Nedohin, whose team lost the 2009 final to Bernard. “As a team, we’re here to do the exact opposite of repeat. We’re here to start off strong and finish strong.”

If anything, Nedohin is convinced it’s anybody’s game this weekend because of the way the teams bunched up during the World Curling Tour season.

“Alberta is tough and it’s been that way for a while,” said Nedohin. “We’ve had the same women playing the same game repeatedly. We’ve come here with the mindframe that it’s our time and we’ll come out and play that way.”

Lori Olson-Johns, throwing second rocks for Bernard this go-round, is the only other player here who was part of a back-to-back winner. She was on King’s 2005-06 team, the last to repeat.

“Actually we were in the final for the three-peat and came second-best in that one,” said Olson-Johns. “It just speaks volumes of the depth in Alberta curling. You look at this field and anybody can be on the podium at the end of this week. That’s what makes it so exciting.

“You’ve got to be at your best to win.”

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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