CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Nobody pulled anyone’s hair, they didn’t scratch each other’s eyes out, heck — they didn’t even call each other names.
But the combatants in one of the most hyped games in women’s curling — Jennifer Jones vs the deposed Cathy-O — put on a gritty display that lived up to every bit of the publicity.
The 3,300-seat Civic Centre might have only been half full, but the atmosphere was as charged as it’s been at this Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The cheers for Manitoba’s Cathy Overton-Clapham, an 8-6 winner over her former skip, were as loud as for host PEI, from the moment the Manitoba champ was introduced to every point she scored.
“Cathy for mayor!” yelled one spectator. Others held signs (Go Go Cathy-O) — giant ballots, you might say, in the vote that’s been held in chat rooms and corner bars throughout the curling fraternity over the last 10 months: Jenn or Cathy-O?
Here, the answer was a resounding, Cathy-O, even from fellow curlers who stayed long after their games were over to watch the drama unfold.
“I imagined the crowd being as great as it was,” Overton-Clapham said. “I didn’t imagine all my peers being as excited and rooting for us. Kelly (Scott, B.C.) was giving the pump fist. That was fun.”
As for the revenge part of this soap opera, that went the underdog’s way, too.
Squaring off with Jones for the first time since she was fired by her, Overton-Clapham rode the support from the stands to a spectacular game, as she shot 93%, to Jones’ 76%.
“Not like that, ever (before),” she said of her performance. “I guess you could say I looked at that as being my final, because I’m not going to be in the final.”
And that’s as close as Cathy-O came to saying she proved something Wednesday night.
Actually, this was: “I had a fire under my—,” she started, before catching herself. “Am I allowed to say that?”
As for Jones, she stuck to the same script she’s been reading from all along
“It was just like playing any other skip,” the three-time defending champ said. “I don’t think there was anything to prove. I’ve always said she was a great player. Their team and Cathy played very well. She had a great game.”
The loss is costly for Jones, dropping her into a four-way tie with Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia for second place, at 6-3, with one day left in the round robin.
The end of the Jones/Cathy-O sideshow means no more flying under the radar for Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland.
The product of tiny Dilke, Sask, population maybe 150, Holland, 8-1, has been the pacesetter all week, although she did suffer her first stumble, a 7-4 Wednesday setback to Heather Smith-Dacey of Nova Scotia.
Whereas a year ago in her first Scotties Holland may have obsessed over her place in the standings, the 36-year-old says she’s keeping things much simpler this year.
“Rocks, ice, hit broom, throw rocks — go do it again,” is how Holland describes the task at hand. “If you start looking at all that stuff, it becomes so complicated, and it doesn’t need to be.”
The other story to watch is the crumbling Ontario team, skipped by 21-year-old Rachel Homan, who after a 5-0 start has lost three of four.
“A little ugly,” is how Homan described the third loss, to Manitoba. “It can turn around any game. We’ve got to win the next two, for sure.”