I caught up with Cathy Overton-Clapham yesterday just before she hopped on a plane to head home to Winnipeg with the hardware and cheque from the year’s first Grand Slam.
I asked Cathy O if she was surprised that her young team managed to wade through the elite field of the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic in Calgary.
“I don’t want to say we were surprised,” she stated. “I think we’re really pleased. Winning any Slam is a great achievement.”
Overton-Clapham has suited up this year with the youthful squad of Breanne Meakin, Jenna Loder and Ashley Howard. If nothing else, the team has good curling genes with both Meakin and Howard being the daughters of world champions Rob and Russ respectively.
But clearly they’ve found a bond early in the year that’s allowed them to win one of the biggest titles in curling.
“We made good shots all weekend,” said the veteran skip, who knocked off Shannon Kleibrink’s team in the final. (It was sans Kleibrink, who is rehabbing after kidney surgery – third Amy Nixon was calling the shots and throwing last rocks.)
Overton-Clapham was clearly reveling in the results, and beating the top teams in the world, but also in the excitement she saw in her front end.
“Everything is new to them,” she chuckled. “Ashley is in awe every time she steps on the ice and sees all these curlers she grew up watching.
“They’re going through this all for the first time so it’s fun to watch.”
Overton-Clapham, 42, said it reminded her of being on the ice with Connie Laliberte when she was starting out her competitive career. Like them, she was wide-eyed but still focused on execution. And she added that there aren’t any problems with the age difference, either on the ice or off (that was after pointing out to me that she wasn’t “that old.”)
They’re on the same page when it comes to commitment to the game and they don’t have to fight over what music is playing in the car on the way to the rink.
You can't help but like Cathy O's enthusiasm for the game and her delight for how her new team has come together so quickly. She is effervescent when she talks about their performance and of how she's excited for the year ahead.
The team is coached by Rob Meakin and when he’s unavailable, Russ Howard steps in as he did on the weekend at the Slam. Overton-Clapham says they help build confidence with the girls, providing assistance with everything from matching rocks to post-game debriefs.
And, she added with a smile, she only had to tell the talkative Russ to stifle it once over the weekend.
Overton-Clapham is hoping to add another Manitoba title to her list of laurels – she is the defending champion, after all – and spent the summer working out as part of her goal. She stated that she is feeling no aches or pains and avoided the traditional cortisone shot that usually accompanies the start of a season.
The campaign is still young and there’s more cash on the line, but for her and her young charges, this year is all about getting back to the Scotties and a shot at another national title. So far, they’re off to a great start.