Lemay hoping to bring home the trophy

LYNNE BERMEL, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

Annie Lemay has a sense of destiny this time around at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Lemay, who lives in Gatineau and curls out of Ottawa's Rideau club, plays second for Marie-France Larouche's Quebec championship team that also includes fellow Gatineau resident Joelle Sabourin at lead and Nancy Belanger at third.

This is Lemay's sixth trip to the Canadian women's curling championship and might be her best shot at a title.

In 2004, she made it to the final as part of Larouche's team but lost to Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia. She also represented Quebec as a member of Larouche's team in 2001 and 2008 and played second for Janique Berthelot at the 1999 and 2000 tournaments.

Winning the Scotties would cap a remarkable season for the Larouche rink, which has been together for the past two years.

The team won five spiels on the World Curling Tour this season and was runner-up in another, finishing the season at No. 3 in the national rankings -- two spots ahead of Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones, last year's Scotties champion and a favourite to win again next weekend in Victoria.

Lemay, a project manager for the federal government, readily acknowledges she and her teammates will be in tough against Jones and other frontrunners like Alberta's Cheryl Bernard and Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton.

"Curling is an interesting game. Sometimes you just don't know how you're going to feel on the ice or what can happen," says Lemay, 31, who has been curling since her father, Alfonse, introduced her to the game 22 years ago.

"But the stars have been aligned for our team all year long. Our confidence is really high these days and our mindset is good."

Lemay's husband, Jean-Michel Menard, became just the second skip from Quebec to win the Brier when he beat Ontario's Glenn Howard in the title game in 2006. Menard says he wouldn't be surprised if his wife's team wins a championship of its own next Sunday.

"Not every curler understands the importance of team chemistry. But it's what makes a championship team," he says. "Annie's team has got that chemistry, which is impressive for a team that has only been playing together for two years."

Lemay says the foursome enjoys being at the rink together, and that makes all the difference.

"We're all great friends," she says. "We may not always agree on strategy, but we never have tense moments. We respect each other and we laugh together a lot."

Mental toughness is another key to the team's success, Menard says.

"I think Annie performs even better when the pressure is on," the four-time provincial champion says. "I'm sure I'm gonna be more nervous watching her on TV than she is out there playing."

Lemay certainly sounds like she's ready for the challenge.

"It's so much fun with this team," says Lemay. "Always fun. I don't remember a hard day with them at all."

What could be more fun than winning the Scotties?

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LYNNEBERMEL@ROGERS.COM


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