SAULT STE. MARIE -- Yes, those curling stones are just as heavy as ever.
But when Kelly Scott starts throwing them at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, they may just feel a little lighter than in the past.
Scott attributed some of the success her British Columbia rink enjoyed at provincial curling championships earlier this month to a fun-first approach, adopted after the foursome came up short at Olympic qualifiers in December.
"We just came out and decided to be loose and have some fun," said Scott, a 32-year-old native of Winnipeg who now lives in Kelowna, B.C. "I think that was something we had lost, because of the Olympic aspect, that maybe we had been too serious."
Team Scott, which includes third Jeanna Schraeder, second Sasha Carter and lead Jacquie Armstrong, was certainly no joke in acquiring its third provincial title and qualifying for the Scotties, slated for Jan.30 to Feb. 7 in the Sault.
Scott beat Kelly Law 8-4 in the B.C. final. Steals in the fourth, fifth and ninth ends tallied up to total four points which proved to be the difference for Scott, who qualified for her fifth Scotties in five years, after missing the national championships in 2009.
"We're really excited to be going," Scott said. "We're thrilled to go to another Scotties. It's really about the biggest event that curling has.
"We've been working hard all year, with the Olympics as a goal. When that didn't pan out, we kind of regrouped, went to the provincials and played well."
Already a former junior Canadian and junior world champion, Scott captured national women's gold in 2006 and 2007, and added a world championship in 2007.
After failing to repeat at the 2008 Scotties, Team Scott failed to qualify for the 2009 nationals. That, coupled with a sixth-place finish in the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) standings, prompted the foursome to remove seven-year lead Renee Simons and add Armstrong.
Scott, along with the likes of Team Canada's Jennifer Jones, Ontario's Krista McCarville and Quebec's Eve Belisle, is among the Scotties veterans who are viewed as early favourites at this year's event.
Not that the B.C. champion is taking any of her lesser-known rivals for granted.
"We've found that you can't go off someone's win-loss record through the week or even their stats," Scott said. "The way we're looking at it is that they all had to play great games leading up to this point, so we'll need to play well no matter who it is."