MONTREAL, Que. -- So this is how Chelsea Carey's first Scotties came to an end, in front of the prime minister, a few thousand fans and the TSN lens.
It wasn't the game the Manitoban skip and her crew wanted to play. Not even a game, one could debate, they should have had to play. But still, they came away from the Sunday afternoon bronze medal match against Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton with a win. And winning is why the country's best curlers go to the rink every day.
"Just to stand on the podium, get a medal and get a ring, that means something, for sure," Carey said, afterwards. "It's meaningful for us to prove we belong here, and it's not just that Jennifer (Jones) wasn't in Manitoba. We belong here, we deserve to be here, so it was nice to show that this week."
The bronze medal game, well, it felt a little deflated. Without the championship left to play for -- just a little more in the cash award, and a medal that doesn't shine gold -- both teams looked to start slow. They blanked four of the 10 ends, traded singles in the fifth and sixth, and Carey nabbed a deuce in the eighth that vaulted her to a 4-3 lead.
Though she couldn't force Lawton to take a point in the ninth, the 10th end, too, went her way: not only did Manitoba get their rocks in good spots, they were helped out when Saskatchewan second Sherri Singler sent a flash flying through the house. So then Carey filled up the house, and Lawton's last shot attempt -- a tricky angle-raise double -- didn't come close to getting the job done.
With that, Carey, third Kristy McDonald, second Kristen Foster and lead Lindsay Titheridge stole three and shook hands on a 7-3 win. It wasn't an easy game to get up for. But with the weight of the week starting to fall off their shoulders, they said they were glad they did. "To come back and battle today, I'm so proud of the girls for hanging in there," Carey said. "It's tough to get motivated for this, and it's just such a hard one, and they hung in there."
They had a special audience member in Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who Scotties organizers said was attending his first women's national championship. Between ends, he snapped photos with a throng of curling fans, then settled back into a red wooden seat in the arena's general stands. "I would like to congratulate all the athletes who participated," Harper said in a statement emailed to the Free Press at the end of the semifinal game.
"Their outstanding performances and sportsmanship have made us all proud. I look forward to cheering on Team Alberta and Team Canada tonight."
The Carey foursome didn't know Harper was in attendance until after the game, when they each met the gaggle of media one after the other. "Wow," McDonald said, taking the news with her characteristic good humour. "Shoot, I wish I had played better."
Chelsea Carey's debut Scotties run is over, though the memories of it may never leave her. On the sheet, her top highlight is still Friday night's 1 vs. 2 Page playoff game against defending champion Rachel Homan -- yeah, she lost, but it was tight and exciting to watch and to play.
What comes next, the teammates agreed, is yet to be decided. If the goal is always to work toward the Olympics, then four years is a long time, a big commitment to make, and so many things can change: for example, McDonald has a baby on the way.
And for the Manitoba third, who curled toward the Scotties for so many years and finally made it at age 34 -- well, McDonald figures they'll talk out the future in due course. On Sunday evening, at least, the "now" was enough. "I can't ask for anything better for my first Scotties," she said. "I said I was just happy to be here, but if I could go home on the podium, that would be a huge accomplishment.
"So I'm very, very satisfied."