It’s one thing to finally qualify for your first national women’s curling championship at the age of 37.
It’s quite another to do it when you’re seven months pregnant.
Saskatchewan third Kara Johnston, whose third child is due in early April, made her Scotties Tournament of Hearts debut Saturday at the K-Rock Centre. Her rink, skipped by cousin Jill Shumay, defeated Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories/Yukon 7-2 in the opening draw.
“My body has grown through the season and so everything has just naturally progressed,” Johnston said. “So I feel really good out there. I feel better in the hack than I do tying shoes, so it’s good.”
Johnston doesn’t seem hampered by her pregnancy on the ice. She is smooth with her rock delivery and attacks sweeping duties with as much vigour as her teammates.
The curling jersey seems to get a little tighter each time out, but her game essentially remains the same.
“I get looked at a little bit more,” Johnston said with a laugh. “But once the game starts, it’s just like it’s always been. You almost forget that there’s somebody else out there with you.”
The Port Alberni, B.C., native admits she does feel a little more fatigued by the end of the day. She also has to take a few more washroom breaks than her teammates.
Once she’s on the ice though, it’s business as usual.
“The baby is really quiet during the game,” she said. “I don’t feel a whole lot of movement so I can kind of put that on the back burner for two hours.
“The poor thing is either scared to death because I yell so loud or I’ve rocked it to sleep. I don’t know which.”
Her Maidstone Curling Club teammates Taryn Holtby and Jinaye Ayrey are also Scotties rookies. They’re joined by alternate Patty Hersikorn.
In other Draw 1 games, Team Canada’s Heather Nedohin outscored New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford 9-6, four-time champ Jennifer Jones of Manitoba beat Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt 8-6 and Ontario’s Rachel Homan whipped Stacie Devereaux of Newfoundland and Labrador 8-1.
Shumay, who’s a year older than Johnston, previously curled with her cousin over a decade ago. They decided to team up again a couple years ago and it didn’t take long to find their rhythm.
Shumay and crew conquered a tough field in the provincial playdowns, pulling out a one-point win to qualify for the nationals.
The veteran skip — also a mother of two — said she was comfortable when she curled in the past with a baby on the way.
“We’re pregnant, not dying, right?” Shumay said with a laugh. “So it’s all good.”
She added that it’s easy to get used to the change over the course of a season.
“It’s not a big deal, your body slowly adjusts,” she said. “It’s not like you hop in the hack for the first time seven months pregnant.”
The team members were all beaming after a successful debut. Shumay said it was emotional to compete at the national championships for the first time.
“I was trying to pretend that it wasn’t but my heart was pounding,” she said. “I probably heard it until about the fifth end to be honest.
“I just tried to do my deep breathing and stay calm and use the adrenaline to my advantage.”
Attendance was 3,563 for the afternoon draw. The 5,700-capacity venue appeared about half-full for the evening draw.
Galusha bounced back in the late game with an 8-7 extra-end victory over Devereaux. Crawford also evened her record with an 11-5 win over Birt.
Quebec’s Allison Ross scored five in the final end for a 9-4 win over Mary-Anne Arsenault of Nova Scotia and B.C.’s Kelly Scott opened with a 7-6 victory over Alberta’s Kristie Moore.
Round-robin play continues through Friday and the playoffs are scheduled for next weekend. The winner will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world women’s curling championship in Riga, Latvia.
Notes: The men’s national curling championship — the Tim Hortons Brier — will be played March 2-10 in Edmonton. ... Canadian skip Jim Armstrong opened the world wheelchair curling championship Saturday with a pair of wins in Sochi, Russia. He beat South Korea’s Hak-Sung Kim 7-1 and then topped Aileen Neilson of Scotland 8-3.