Former lead Theresa Cannon moving up to skip new Winnipeg-based team

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Winnipeg’s Theresa Cannon is making the jump from lead to skip next season.

Cannon will call the shots in 2019-20 announcing Friday she has formed a new team with third Karen Klein, second Vanessa Foster and lead Raunora Westcott.

It’s a reunion for Cannon, Klein and Foster as they previously played together with skip Darcy Robertson. After they were eliminated in the semifinals of provincial playdowns and opted not to continue onward, Cannon was ready to take the plunge.

“This past year, I really found an interest in the strategic side of things and having an analytical approach to strategy,” Cannon said. “So I decided to change positions and then began looking for teammates.

“I have played with Karen on and off for a while and we are good friends. She is a very supportive and encouraging teammate and I knew that if I was going to skip, I would want someone like that at the third position. I later heard Vanessa was still a free agent and after telling her of my desire to skip, we three agreed to join forces with this new configuration.”

Although it’ll be uncharted waters for Cannon, she’s excited for the new challenge and is open to input from her teammates on the ice.

“Everyone on the team has different strengths and is very experienced and as this is a team sport, I want everyone to be actively involved with all parts of the team including strategy,” she said. “We have a lot of external supports in place to help with my transition as well as us all coming together as a new unit.”

Seeing as how Cannon is a former lead, she knew what qualities she was looking for in a player at that position and connected with Westcott.

“Immediately when I was looking for other people to play with, I knew I wanted to reach out to Raunora as she clearly is a very talented and experienced lead,” Cannon said. “More than that, Raunora is a very friendly and committed person.

“We have often played against her and know she is extremely dedicated as she practised frequently at the same club we trained out of this past year. She has a lot to bring to this team in so many ways and we are lucky to have her with us.”

The Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling returns to Toronto for the Players' Championship, April 9-14, at Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre. See 12 of the top men's teams and 12 of the top women's teams from around the world.

The three-time provincial champion Westcott won a silver medal for Manitoba with Michelle Englot’s crew at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2017. Team Englot returned to the national women’s curling championship the following year in the Team Canada auto-berth spot when Rachel Homan’s club did not return to defend the title as they were busy preparing for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Westcott linked up with skip Alli Flaxey this year, however, the team announced earlier this month they’ll be parting ways after the season.

“I had a few options, but I knew that I still wanted to compete at a high level and wasn’t ready to slow down,” Westcott said. “When Theresa contacted me, I was a little surprised because I had no idea that she was interested in skipping, but looking back to the times playing against them, it was obvious to me that Theresa is incredibly strategic, driven and ready to take that leap.

“I’ve known the girls for a long time and played with Karen in the past. I respect their dedication to the game and I feel this will be a great fit.”

Even though Canadian clubs are allowed one out-of-province player and more and more are adding an import in order to assemble the best team possible, going against the trend and having everyone live relatively close together was a huge consideration for Cannon.

“Already, Karen and Vanessa live outside of Winnipeg and take a lot of time to travel to practices and events in Winnipeg,” Cannon said. “Especially with a new team and as a new skip, it is key for me to see how people slide and release the rock. With so many other team components such as sweeping and communication being vital to our team’s success, it will be great to be able to train frequently with each other and work to improve.”

Westcott added: “For the past few years, I’ve played with an import and as much as I enjoyed my teammates, I’ve come to realize how important it is for me personally and as a team to practise together regularly.”

The four have already discussed off-season plans as Cannon is aiming for a strong start to 2019-20 in order to qualify for the first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, the Canadian Beef Masters, taking place at the end of October in North Bay, Ont. Provincial playdowns is also high on their radar and they’re well aware the level of dedication required to compete in Manitoba.

“While we love this sport, we put this team together knowing that we will be balancing our work and family commitments along with our curling schedule and our focus will be to constantly improve and have fun,” Cannon said.

Westcott will finish out the season with Team Flaxey as their DEKALB Superspiel title victory earned them a spot in the Humpty’s Champions Cup running April 23-28 in Saskatoon.

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