Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. -
There is a youth movement afoot at the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. There are 17 rookies among the 48 curlers participating in the Canadian women's curling championship at the Essar Centre. Among the first-year class of 2010 is Alberta skip Val Sweeting, who successfully guided her Edmonton team through the playdowns en route to becoming the youngest skip to win an Alberta women's title.
The precocious 22-year-old has carried that momentum to the Scotties. She was 2-1 after two days of action and was among the early surprises. While Sweeting's performance has raised more than a few eyebrows, the young skip is taking her success in stride.
"We've all been playing for a long time," said Sweeting, who fell to 2-1 after a 6-5 loss to Ontario's Krista McCarville Sunday afternoon.
Sweeting improved to 2-0 early Monday with a 13-2 victory over Prince Edward Island's Kathy O'Rourke. There was more to the match than the six-ender that Sweeting scored in the sixth end. O'Rourke calls the game but 21-year-old Erin Carmody throws skip stones and Geri-Lynn Ramsay, also 21, throws third. The match could be considered a preview of what's ahead for women's curling with so many talented young players participating in this year's event.
"It's good to see young blood coming through and keeping youth in the sport," said B.C.'s Kelly Scott, who didn't reach her first Scotties until she was 27. "I think with the whole Olympic movement that young players don't have to put in as many years to get the experience like we used to. They are training and they have coaches in every area you could ever want."
O'Rourke, 45, is the oldest member of the P.E.I. squad. She feels that Carmody and Ramsay - who both shared in P.E.I. junior women's championships in 2007, 2008 and 2009 - are solid enough shooters to handle the back end. O'Rourke added that calling the game took some of the pressure off Carmody. It has worked as O'Rourke was 3-1 after defeating Sharon Cormier from the Territories 10-7 Sunday night.
Newfoundland and Labrador skip Shelley Nichols - who has Scotties rookies Rhonda Rogers, Stefanie Ledrew and Collette Lemon on her rink out of the Re/Max Centre in St. John's - fell to 1-2 with a couple of losses to Prairie teams Sunday, 11-5 to Manitoba and 8-5 to Saskatchewan.
The Nichols rink had won its first contest Saturday, beating the Territories.
Despite the youthful feel to the Scotties, veteran Jennifer Jones is tied for first place with McCarville at 3-0. Jones, the two-time defending Canadian champion, stayed perfect by beating Saskatchewan's Amber Holland 7-3 on Sunday afternoon.
Jones and McCarville are being chased by O'Rourke, Sweeting, Scott (2-1) and Manitoba's Jill Thurston (2-1) all at one loss. Quebec's Eve Belisle and are at 1-2 along with Nichols. Both Cormier and New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly are 1-3, while Nova Scotia's Nancy McConnery is winless at 0-4.