Cathy Overton-Clapham cherishing one more shot at Olympic dream

OTTAWA — The woman they call “Cathy O” is leaning on her upside-down broom, and she’s talking about how she had no idea she’d be here at curling’s Olympic trials, because it wasn’t something she was even thinking about, and it really wasn’t on the radar until recently.

Well, Cathy Overton-Clapham is not only here, but she and Team Carey are undefeated through three games.

“This has been very exciting,” the 48-year-old Winnipegger and five-time Canadian champ said, grinning, just a couple minutes after her team’s third straight win. “When your skip’s making all the shots, it’s a lot of fun out there.”

Overton-Clapham is playing third with Calgary skip Chelsea Carey, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Laine Peters, the team she joined in March. And after an extra-ends victory in the battle of Alberta on Monday, they’re 3-0, and join Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones as the only two undefeated women’s teams still standing in the early stages of the Roar of the Rings.

As Carey pointed out, none of their wins have been easy here at Canadian Tire Centre — and that’s a good thing.

“We’ve not been blowing teams out, it’s been close games and we’ve had to make clutch shots and overcome bad ends and misses and come back,” last year’s Scottie’s champion said. “That’s as important as the record, having shown that resiliency and fight and be that battle-tested early in the week.”

On Monday against Lethbridge’s Casey Scheidegger, there were plenty of tests in the 8-7 extra-end win. The battle of Alberta was a see-saw affair from start to finish.

It was Scheidegger who struck first with a steal of one in the opening end when Carey’s attempt to draw the button came up short. It looked like Carey was in control after that, stealing points in two ends and recording three straight singles.

But Scheidegger got right back into this one with back-to-back deuces. That included a steal of a pair in the sixth, when Carey missed on her attempted takeout, giving Scheidegger a 5-3 lead heading into the seventh.

Carey says in moments like those, Overton-Clapham’s presence is enormous.

“She exudes this attitude of, ‘Ok, we’ll get it back,’” the skip said. “She has all the faith in the world that we’ll win every game, and that’s how you need to be here. I think we’ve all fed off that confidence a bit.”

They did get it back this time around, too. In the seventh, Scheidegger attempted a takeout on her last rock but jammed it and rolled out, and Carey scored three to take a 6-5 lead. The teams traded singles, forcing an 11th end, and leaving Carey with the hammer.

On her second-last shot, the skip drew the button around a bunch of guards, and forced Scheidegger to respond with a takeout. Scheidegger missed, and this one was over.

Overton-Clapham says that unlike in the first game, the nerves are now gone, and she’s settling in and getting better with each game here. She made 82 per cent of her shots on Monday, compared to 71 per cent in her rink’s opening win over world champion Rachel Homan.

“I feel better today,” Overton-Clapham said, though she added she’s still working on mastering her draw weight.

“She’s a little hard on herself,” Carey said, with a smile.

Overton-Clapham played in all the Grand Slam events last year, and was confident she could play at a high level this season if a team in contention for the Olympic Games came calling. That call came in early March, from Carey and Peterman and Peters (they were all in the car on speakerphone). Overton-Clapham says she figured they’d be asking her to be their alternate.

When they pitched her on being their third, she talked to her family (husband, Mike, and her teenaged kids Andrew and Mackenzie) and called back a couple days later.

“I was ready to go all in,” Overton-Clapham said. “Right now, I’m certainly glad I said yes.”

Carey, who grew up in Winnipeg and curled at some of the same clubs as Overton-Clapham, says she was “pretty sure Cathy wouldn’t turn down a chance to compete at Olympic trials.” Carey and her team had a list of potential curlers to be their third, but Overton-Clapham, the 2008 world champion and one of the most decorated curlers in Manitoba history, was at the top of the list.

This is Overton-Clapham’s fourth trip to the Roar of the Rings. She competed here twice along with Jones, but never won it with the Winnipeg rink.

It’s in the early goings here, and Team Carey has five games to go in the round robin, including a Wednesday clash with Jones. The playoffs begin on Saturday with the semifinal, and the top team will advance straight to Sunday’s final.

Nobody’s looking too far ahead, because it’s a long week with many games to go, but Team Carey is well aware that to win it all would be extra special with their Hall of Famer third aboard.

“It’s the last thing she hasn’t won,” Carey says. “She’s literally won everything else there is to win. Going to the Olympics would be pretty special for everyone, obviously, but it would be incredible for her. You could argue she should have been at a few and never got the chance to go. It would be so special.”

Overton-Clapham’s eyes grow bigger when she considers what it might be like to earn a trip to the Winter Games a little under a week from now, and on her fourth shot.

“Oh, god, I can’t even put that into words,” she said, smiling. “It’s very early to think about that. I think [we’re] just focusing on trying to play well every game.

“But, obviously,” she added, “winning this would be a dream come true.”