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Quebec’s Sabourin joins Team Jennifer Jones

Pregnancy sidelines hard-throwing Jill Officer

Joelle Sabourin, second from left, with Team Osborne

First, Winnipeg got the Jets. Now, the world’s best women’s curling team – based in the Peg, of course – gets a bit of joie de vivre this fall.

Winnipeg curling star Jill Officer started the ball rolling with an online reveal – her first pregnancy!

Officer then told The Curling News that Quebec curling veteran Joelle Sabourin will replace her on the powerhouse Jennifer Jones foursome this fall and winter, in tandem with regular Jones alternate Jennifer Clark-Rouire.

Officer’s due date is December 2 – right in the middle of the all-important Canada Cup in Cranbrook, BC – and with the curling season starting up well past the midway part of her pregnancy, it was decided that she will sit out the first half of the season entirely.

Officer plans to “stay loose” throughout the fall and is hoping to rejoin the team in time for the Manitoba women’s provincial scheduled for Portage La Prairie, January 25-29. Should they qualify, it will be Jones’ first provincial appearance since 2008.

Jill Officer (left) with Team Jones last February

After running through a draft list of substitute options, Sabourin was chosen by Team Jones as Officer’s replacement due to a couple of factors: her previous intention of not competing in 2011-2012 – so much for that! – and her friendship with Jones lead Dawn Askin.

Askin, an Ottawa native, was a teammate with Sabourin in 2005. The Quebecer was the alternate for Ontario’s Jenn Hanna – with Askin at lead – when Jones made that legendary in-off double-takeout to win the Canadian women’s championship final in stunning fashion.

Sabourin has competed in five Canadian women’s championships since 1997, including 2008 and 2009 with skip Marie-France Larouche. Her 2011 squad, skipped by Chantal Osborne, lost the Quebec final 8-7 to Larouche.

Sabourin confirmed that she will play in the major World Curling Tour events – plus the Canada Cup – while Clark-Rouire will fill Officer’s shoes at the smaller tour stops and also in the early rounds of Manitoba women’s playdowns.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity and an honour to play with these guys,” Sabourin told The Curling News.

“When Dawn called me… I had recently made my decision not to play next year and I was okay with it, but then she called soon afterward and asked me and I said ‘You’re kidding me, right?’

“I’m gonna work hard on my side – I’m not Jill, but I can throw hard and I’ll be practicing my peels for sure. I was biking because I have a race coming up… but now I’ve added kickboxing, four days a week, also to get ready.”

Team Osborne photo courtesy of Curling Quebec

Team Jones photo by Andrew Klaver / Kruger Products Ltd.

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Regina Worlds: Lighting It Up

As we mentioned on Saturday, The Curling News Blog will be hopping with activity during the men’s worlds in Regina. And here, now revealed, is our blogstar for the event – second stone superstar out of Winnipeg, Jill Officer!

You’ve seen her stuff before – eg. the 2008 Brier in Winnipeg – and here she is again! She’s barely unpacked her bags and there’s already mayhem afoot!

Can I sit here? What about over there?

by Jill Officer

REGINA – Sorry I’m late, folks! I just arrived here this afternoon, and now I’m in the blogzone for The Curling News here at the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship!

Why am I late to the party? Our foursome, Team Jennifer Jones, was competing in the Victoria Curling Classic on the weekend and we were victorious, with a win over Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary in the final on Sunday.  But now on to more important things….world curling in Regina!

As I entered the Brandt Centre today, I quickly remembered walking around this place just three years ago when we were Team Manitoba at the STOH in 2008.  It’s a great facility.

The first thing I did was hit the lounge – not for a drink, but for some lunch. I had literally only been on the ground here in Regina for an hour when something very interesting happened in the Sweden versus Norway game. As I ate lunch, I was looking at my Twitter feed on my phone and hey preston… that’s how I learned that the two teams were in the process of replaying the second end of their game.

As soon as I got hooked up on the media bench (the photo of CCA media guy Jeff Timson and myself is by Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun) I found out what happened. It was on third stones in the second end, and Sweden was throwing. Now for those of you who don’t know, each and every stone here has a sensor in the handle to monitor hogline violations. If a rock is released before the hogline, the light on top of the rock turns green until about halfway down the sheet, when it shuts off. Most stones react this way, and that’s a good thing.

But if the rock is released after the hogline – a very, very bad thing – a flashing red light appears, indicating a violation. If that happens, the offending team is to stop the rock and remove it from play before it comes to rest. That stone is toast!

In this case, the two little lights on top of the rock turned both red and green! The Swedes, not knowing what was wrong – or what to do – let the rock play out, but in the confusion of it all, they also didn’t sweep the rock to make the shot that was being called.

What to do? The "Lightgate" debate

Head Official Rae Kells said she wanted “to do what was fair for both teams.” Initially she was going to allow the shot to be replayed, but when the two teams could not agree on the original positioning of the stones prior to the incident, it was agreed that the entire end had to be replayed.

The end resulted in a steal of two for Norway and a 4-0 lead, after Swedish skip Niklas Edin rolled out on an open hit. Although Sweden tried to make a comeback, Thomas Ulsrud and Co. held on for the win.

In the postgame interviews, both skips said they have never, in their careers, ever had to replay an end before.

Ulsrud said he left the decision up to Edin and the Swedes (as did the officials) to either replace the rocks at the correct angles or replay the end, but Edin said he didn’t feel right replacing the rocks because the Norwegians were unsure of the correct placement and angles.

It seemed Edin’s bigger issue with the whole situation was the fact that there was a dead battery in the handle. He said they should be checked before every game to prevent situations like this, as it was not the first time this week there was a malfunctioning light on a rock.

Both teams are now at two losses and both have yet to face undefeated Canada. Norway also has to face undefeated Scotland.

Here is the website of the company that created and manufactures the rock sensor technology, by the way. Just in case you’re interested.

And that wraps up just the first couple of hours of my time in Regina at the men’s worlds… and I haven’t even seen Team Canada play yet. This can only get better!

“Lightgate” photo by Leslie Ingram Brown

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2011 Women of Curling

Yes, it’s true. She said she’d never, ever do it.

But she did.

Vancouver Olympic silver medallist and curling heroine Cheryl Bernard is one of 13 female athlete models unveiled today in the new 2011 Women of Curling Calendar, an all-Canadian product now on sale for charity.

The glossy wall calendar features Calgary’s Bernard, Winnipeg’s four-time and defending Canadian champion Jill Officer (left, from Team Jennifer Jones) and even the legendary Colleen Jones, the five-time national women’s champion from Halifax, who has returned to competition this fall after a brief hiatus from the sport.

The 2011 Women of Curling Calendar, which features curling ladies from coast to coast, also includes national-level athletes, former junior champions and even a novice recently attracted to the sport following the excitement of Vancouver 2010.

“I know I said definitely not, no posing in a calendar,” laughed Bernard. “I think I said never, actually. But this one is not so much risqué, at least not in my case. At least I don’t think so!

“My image promotes fitness and health for all women. That’s what I want to project and that’s what this project offered.”

The first “Fire On Ice” women’s curling calendar debuted in the fall of 2005 and was an international media and pop culture sensation right through the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

That calendar, and more recent efforts, have all featured a majority of European curing stars. The 2011 edition, produced by The Curling News and aimed as a charitable fundraising project, features an all-Canadian cast of strong, confident and beautiful female athletes.

“These girls designed their own photo shoots, found their own photographers, and everyone contributed to it for charity,” said George Karrys, publisher of The Curling News.

“Some of these ladies went all out in terms of the creative concept, and things like wardrobe, makeup, you name it. The commitment they made is unbelievable.”

The calendar costs $29.95 each and is available online at womenofcurlingcalendar.com. It is also available through thecurlingnews.com and will also be available through other curling websites, such as teamjenniferjones.com.

Curling clubs, in addition to the athlete models, can access product at a discounted rate, which also makes the calendar a fundraiser for their local communities.

“We’ll be promoting this wherever we go in the curling world,” said Kari MacLean. who is one of two members of Team Krista McCarville – the Ontario champions and third-place finishers at the 2009 Olympic Trials – to appear in the calendar.

“Maybe Ashley (Miharija) and I will have a team contest,” said MacLean. “Who can sell more, the blonde or the brunette?”

Proceeds will go to Shoot For A Cure Curling, the sport-focussed fundraising and awareness campaign of the Canadian and American Spinal Research Organizations (CSRO/ASRO).

Shoot For A Cure, which is also supported by the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) is committed to finding a cure for spinal paralysis. The campaign also strives to increase awareness of the Paralympic sport of Wheelchair Curling.

The Curling News is the global media authority on the sport of curling. Founded in Canada in 1957, The Curling News publishes six issues during the annual curling season and also leverages itself via multiple online platforms including Facebook and Twitter.

The 2011 Women of Curling are:

December 2010: Colleen Jones, Nova Scotia
January 2011: Ashley Miharija, Ontario
February: Cheryl Bernard, Alberta
March: Chelsea Carey, Manitoba
April: Jill Officer, Manitoba
May: Kari MacLean, Ontario
June: Sarah Wark, British Columbia
July: Andrea Leganchuk, Ontario
August: Trica Affleck, Prince Edward Island
October: Kristy Jenion, Manitoba
November: Teri Lake, Nova Scotia
December: Darah Provencal, British Columbia