Keeping up with the Joneses

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Some of them are household names. Others are of the "Who's that?" variety.

But the 12 teams arriving in the city today share the same goal -- winning the Canadian women's curling championship. Some just have a better shot at it.

The 2006 Scott Tournament of Hearts begins Saturday at the John Labatt Centre and six of the skips played in last year's championship in St. John's, Nfld.

At first glance, it would appear the 10 other rinks will be trying to keep up with the Joneses. Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg is back, this time as skip of Team Canada, while Colleen Jones of Halifax is making her 20th Hearts appearance -- she also represented Nova Scotia the last time the Hearts was in London, in 1986 at Thompson arena.

Five-time national champion and two-time world titlists, Colleen Jones and her rink of Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Arsenault and Nancy Delahunt have appeared in a combined 49 previous Hearts, by far the most experienced of the competitors here. And having been dethroned as champion last year, after losing in a tiebreaker to Sandy Comeau of New Brunswick, they'll be eager to get the crown back.

Jennifer Jones, meanwhile, stormed to national prominence last year after her spectacular winning shot in the final against Ontario's Jenn Hanna, angling her final stone off an Ontario rock outside the rings and removing Hanna's shot stone to count four. In terms of the situation, it ranks right up there with Al Hackner's famous cross-house double against Alberta's Pat Ryan in the 1985 Brier final.

She has Cathy Overton-Clapham and Jill Officer back as her third and second and picked up Georgina Wheatcroft to throw lead stones when Cathy Gauthier decided to step down. Wheatcroft won an Olympic bronze medal in 2002 with Kelley Law.

The third former champion in the field is Alberta's Cathy King, who was Cathy Borst when she won in 1998. Back for her seventh Hearts, she was also in St. John's, where she also lost in a tiebreaker.

Also repeating as provincial champs this year were Kelly Scott of B.C. (the Olympic trials runner-up), Heather Strong of Newfoundland/ Labrador and Kerry Koe of the Territories. Last year, Scott went 8-3 in the round-robin, but 0-2 in the playoffs, Koe was 4-7 and Strong struggled at 1-10 in front of the home crowd -- but with the pressure off this year, it may be a different story for the Rock.

Suzanne Gaudet of P.E.I. could be the early crowd favourite. A winner of the Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel here in 2003, Gaudet is in her third Hearts. Her previous two had vastly different finishes. In 2003, she topped the round-robin at 10-1 and eventually finished third, but in 2004, she went 2-9.

Janet Harvey of Manitoba is also making her third Hearts appearance.

Then there are the rookies, including Ontario skip Krista Scharf of Thunder Bay. She's been knocking on the door provincially for a couple of seasons and while she enters as a virtual unknown in these parts, her rink of Tara George, Tiffany Stubbing and Lorraine Lang (a two-time national champion and a world champ in 1989 with Heather Houston) will be a factor at some point.

Also making their Hearts debuts are Eve Belisle of Quebec, Tracy Streifel of Saskatchewan and Andrea Kelly of New Brunswick.

Belisle is no stranger to London, having played in the women's cashspiel in October, while Kelly was the 2005 Canadian junior women's champion, finishing third at the worlds.


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