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Sinclair looking to make a difference for Quebec in first career Scotties

Team Quebec Laurie St-Georges Jamie Sinclair Laurie St-Georges Jamie Sinclair - The Canadian Press

CALGARY – After playing the majority of her curling career in the United States, dual-citizen Jamie Sinclair is making her Scotties Tournament of Hearts debut this week in Calgary with Quebec’s Team Laurie St-Georges. 

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Sinclair grew up in Ottawa before she committed to curling in the United States when she moved to Minnesota in 2014. 

Sinclair, who turns 32 on Wednesday, found plenty of success during her time down south, winning three straight United States Women's Curling Championships as a skip from 2017 to 2019. She was also a win away from representing the U.S. at the 2018 Winter Olympics, losing to Nina Roth in a best-of-three Trials final.

The design and renovation contractor also served as the American rep at the 2018 and 2019 World Women’s Curling Championship.

Sinclair didn’t have any aspirations in leaving the United States, but things changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and later decided to move back to Canada’s capital in 2022. 

“When I was in the States, I saw myself kind of being there forever and finishing off my career there, but in the last couple years with COVID and stuff, locking down and missing my family, being away from them, I really just wanted to come back,” Sinclair told on Tuesday at Winsport Arena. “I realized that I couldn’t give up curling and I was looking for a team here.

“I still had the love for the sport, so I needed to keep going and chase some more dreams.”

Sinclair spared for Chelsea Carey for a season before joining Team St-Georges, alongside Quebec curling great Marie-France Larouche, at the end last season. 

Sinclair, who now plays third, was originally thought to be ineligible to compete at this year’s Scotties due her recent stint curling in the United States. However, Curling Canada has since updated their eligibility rules to fall in line with the mandates developed by World Curling.

“Players are eligible to compete at Canadian championships after two years of not competing at an international World Curling event for another country,” Curling Canada said in an email. 

Sinclair last represented the United States at the World Women’s Curling Championship in 2019.

“Originally, I was told I would have to wait out another year, but I think Curling Canada in general are revamping and getting in line with the rest of the world,” explained Sinclair. “My eligibility was kind of part of that too.”

Ontario-based lead Kelly Middaugh is the team’s import player. Despite being born in the United States and living in Ottawa, Sinclair resides close enough to Quebec to be eligible under Curling Canada’s border residency rules. 

St-Georges, second Emily Riley and alternate Larouche were all born and continue to live in Quebec. 

St-Georges, the energetic 26-year-old skip who is representing the province at a fourth straight Scotties, says the addition of Sinclair and Larouche have been instrumental for the development of her own game.

“We’ve learned so much this year. Probably learned more this year than my whole career. It’s really impressive. They’re great people. I love playing with them,” said St-Georges.

“Their experience makes me feel like I can make any shot and it’s a boost of confidence for us for sure. It also brings a calm momentum.”

After winning three straight games, Quebec hit a bump in the road on Tuesday with an 8-3 defeat to undefeated Alberta, led by their rookie skipper Selena Sturmay. 

With the loss, Team St-Georges owns a 3-2 record and will likely be in a dog fight for the third and final playoff spot in Pool A. 

Alberta (5-0) and Canada’s Team Kerri Einarson (5-1) appear to be in good standing to advance while Quebec (3-2), Northern Ontario’s Team Krista McCarville (3-2), Saskatchewan’s Team Skylar Ackerman (3-3), Manitoba’s Team Kaitlyn Lawes (2-3) and British Columbia’s Team Corryn Brown (2-3) all scrambling for the last spot. 

“Our pool is a bit of mess to say the least,” remarked Sinclair. “I think anything is possible. We’re kind of finding our groove a little bit. This team in general, we have a lot of grit. We’re just going to grind it out and see what happens come the last couple round robin games.”

Quebec still has dates with Northern Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island left on their card. 

There are no tiebreakers at this year’s Tournament of Hearts with head-to-head results followed by Last-Shot Draw rankings determining playoff spots if needed.

“The depth of the field at the Scotties is unreal,” said Sinclair. “Just the sheer amount of teams this country has is unbelievable. It’s really fun to be here and play against them.” 

St-Georges went 6-6 at the 2021 Scotties inside the Calgary bubble and 3-5 in 2022 in Thunder Bay. Last year in Kamloops, B.C., St-Georges earned a tiebreaker following a 5-3 round robin showing, but lost to the hometown rink led by Clancy Grandy. 

The last time Quebec made the playoffs at the Tournament of Hearts was in 2012 with Larouche leading the way.