Perhaps the fight for the national women’s curling crown should be renamed the Scotties Tournament of Broken Hearts.
Certainly, Shannon Kleibrink and her Calgary crew can attest to such emotion.
Three years ago, they were felled in the final on a last rock thrown by Kleibrink that jammed to give Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones the 6-4 victory.
Beginning Saturday, Alberta’s Kleibrink, Amy Nixon, Bronwen Webster and Chelsey Bell have a chance to right the ship at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
“I don’t know if we’ve gone into any (previous Scotties) feeling any kind of pressure,” said 42-year-old Kleibrink. “Maybe the last one in 2008, we went in with expectations. We knew we had a chance.
“If everything went the way it did three years ago — except for that last rock — then we’d be happy.”
They’d be winners, too.
And the triumph would come against one of the strongest Scotties fields in the history of the 51-year national championship.
Jones is the defending champion and heads back as one of five returning skips from the 2008 tourney. There’s Kerry Galusha, a seven-time representative of the Territories. Quebec’s Marie-France is another, making her fifth appearance. And B.C.’s Kelly Scott, who’s been to the Scotties five previous times, including winning the event back-to-back in ‘06 and ‘07.
And then there’s Kleibrink, making her fourth trip to the Canadian dance.
“Unfortunately, we’re not getting there often enough,” Kleibrink said. “It’s only my fourth time, and it’s the third for some of the other girls. But at least we’ve been there before, so it’s not going to feel like it’s something new to us.
“It’s not like we’re really feeling any pressure,” said Kleibrink, whose Calgary Winter Club rink came into the season with a laid-back attitude en route to sweeping through the provincials in Camrose last month. “It seems to be working for us, so why not stick with it?”
To help their cause, the focus in P.E.I. won’t be on them.
With Jones returning as the reigning queen, all eyes are on her and Team Canada — specifically on how the nine-day event will play out with Manitoba champ Cathy Overton-Clapham, whom Jones dumped in a high-profile off-season move that “blindsided” her former third, also challenging for the title.
“We’re even looking forward to that game,” Kleibrink said. “Jennifer and Cathy were an absolute powerhouse together, so they probably both give something up by not playing together. Everybody likes a controversy, and people are already talking about the game they’ll play against each other (Feb. 23 in Charlottetown).
“Fortunately, that’s one thing we’re not — controversial.”