Jones, Cathy O face same problem

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 PM ET

Call it the challenge of the third dimension.

You see, both Team Canada’s Jennifer Jones and Manitoba’s Cathy Overton-Clapham will have the same problem at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts that start in Charlottetown, P.E.I., this Saturday — that is, a problem beyond the media scrutiny that will plague them until they finally face each other there.

Their problem is that neither one will have Cathy O playing third for them. With all due respect for Kaitlyn Lawes and Karen Fallis (or Breanne Meakin), not one of them has Overton-Clapham’s pedigree.

“That’s a great point,” said TSN’s Cathy Gauthier, who won the 2005 Canadian crown playing with both Jones and Overton-Clapham. “As a third, Cathy just brought so much to the picture. She has been a huge part of that team’s (Jones) success. I mean, she was an all-star almost every year.

“There’s going to be a lot of good, solid players there but nobody who can make that soft, finesse shot like she can.”

The best third in the field will be Amy Nixon, who helped Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink win Olympic bronze medal in 2006.

“Amy Nixon’s always tough and Jeanna Schraeder (third for B.C.’s Kelly Scott) was awesome, at least at one point,” said Gauthier.

Other noteworthy teams heading to Spud Island include Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland, Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche and P.E.I.’s Suzanne Birt (nee Gaudet).

“On paper, it looks like one of the strongest fields ever,” said Gauthier, who picked Jeff Stoughton to win Manitoba last week. “But I’m not sure, realistically, if that will be the case.”

That’s because so few of them have had good cashspiel seasons.

Jones is seeking her fourth straight title belt — without Overton-Clapham for the first time — and that has only been done once before.

“Jennifer’s experience will get her to the Final 4 and, if Cathy plays like she did the last two days of the provincials, she will also get there,” predicted Gauthier, who coached Overton-Clapham in Altona. “If (Ontario’s Rachel) Homan can handle the schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her playing (in the final) on Sunday. And it’s so hard not to put Shannon Kleibrink in the Final 4 because she’s so good she can win games by herself.”

But Jones will have a much tougher go.

“Since the split (with Overton-Clapham), teams are no longer afraid of Jones,” Gauthier suggested. “And when they stop being afraid of you, they play better and that will make it tougher to win.”

Then there is the media circus that will follow both Jones and Overton-Clapham like salivating paparazzi closing in for the kill shot.

“Both of them will say they won’t be affected at all and I think it will affect them both,” Gauthier said. “It’s impossible for it not to with the history between them and all the success they had playing together. Plus, they had never played each other before this year so, there is no escape.

“Now, they’ve both been trained by sports psychologists so they will know the right things to say. But nobody’s got their heads in the sand, this is a really big game for both of them.”

But the biggest game of all will come Sunday, and I say Kleibrink captures her first Canadian crown by beating Jones in the final.

BITERS: Beausejour may have been the tiniest town to host a Safeway Championships but the stands which held about 1,500 were filled for almost every draw, including the games televised live by Shaw … Just to clarify, Steve Gould was the fifth man when Stoughton won the Brier in 1999.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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