January 24, 2012
Howard lending a hand to Cathy O
By JIM BENDER, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Curling legend Russ Howard and his wife Wendy will be in Portage la Prairie to cheer on Fort Rouge's Cathy Overton-Clapham at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts this week.
Their daughter, Ashley, plays second for the defending provincial champ.
In fact, Russ had been in Winnipeg for the past week helping Rob Meakin coach the Overton-Clapham squad.
"We worked on strategy and he gave us some tips on throwing," Overton-Clapham said before leaving for Portage where the Scotties start on Wednesday. "I mean, he's been through it all."
It is actually the third time Russ has coached the team this season, including the week it won a women's Grand Slam in Calgary.
There were no problems between Howard and Meakin, who has won both a Brier and world championship with Manitoba legend Kerry Burtnyk.
"Actually, watching Ashley and Russ bicker was quite entertaining," Overton-Clapham joked.
Ashley played in the New Brunswick Scotties last year, then moved to Winnipeg to attend university and join 'Cathy O.' But this will be the first time she has played in a provincial championship on arena ice.
"She's played great and is super fun," said Overton-Clapham, also supported by third Jenna Loder and lead Breanne Meakin (Rob's daughter). "She makes us laugh."
It will also be Meakin's first provincial Scotties, despite the fact she curled in the nationals last year. She missed the Manitoba playdowns because she was skipping a squad in the national juniors at the time.
This week's Scotties is full of intrigue that should draw interest from across the country. St. Vital's four-time Canadian champ Jennifer Jones will compete in the Manitoba playdowns for the first time since 2008 because she had gotten byes into the nationals as Team Canada the previous three years. And there could be another showdown between Jones and Overton-Clapham this weekend.
Jill Officer, who just had her first baby in December, will also return to play second for Jones this week. Jones had played most of the season employing spares at lead and moving lead Dawn Askin up to second.
Kaitlyn Lawes, who replaced Overton-Clapham at third for Jones last season, will also be playing in her first Manitoba Scotties, despite curling in the nationals last year.