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Former Scotties champ Heather Nedohin ready to step back after 20-year run

04/10/2015 12:12 EDT | Updated 06/12/2015 10:59 EDT
TORONTO - Heather Nedohin is closing out this phase of her curling career in style.

The Edmonton skip took down the reigning Olympic champion at the start of The Players' Championship, and then knocked off the reigning world champion on Friday morning.

Nedohin clearly still has the game to compete at the top level, but she knows it's the right time to step back after a 20-year run.

"Am I retiring? No. I mean that would be stepping away completely from the game," Nedohin said. "I manage a curling club, so I play Tuesday morning ladies (games) with the girls. But the competitive circuit is just — I know and see what it takes to be No. 1.

"I like being No. 1 and I just don't have the time to be No. 1."

Nedohin, who turns 40 in July, won a Scotties Tournament of Hearts title in 2012 as skip and finished third at the world championship that year. She also won a national title in 1998 as a third on Cathy Borst's rink.

She knew earlier this season that this would be her last campaign at her current level of commitment.

"I think the turning point came to me when I was at an event and I missed both of my girls' provincial championships," she said. "And I was just like, 'I really don't want to be here.' So I would rather be elsewhere. When it's becoming work to go to practice and it's not enjoyable to be on the road, I think it's time.

"I've had an amazing career. I've had an amazing opportunity through the sport to travel and (create) friendships."

Nedohin downed Sochi Games champion Jennifer Jones in her opening game Wednesday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Then, on Friday she claimed an 8-6 victory over Switzerland's Alina Paetz, who won a world title last month in Japan.

Nedohin also beat Switzerland's Binia Feltscher 8-5 in her final pool game to finish fourth and qualify for the playoffs.

The top six teams in the 12-team women's field will make the cut at the last Grand Slam of Curling event of the season. The men's draw uses the same format.

Paetz, Ottawa's Rachel Homan and Edmonton's Val Sweeting are tied in first place at 4-1.

Winnipeg's Mike McEwen leads the men's standings at 5-0 after downing Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L. 6-4 in evening play.

Also in the evening draw, Saskatoon's Steve Laycock toppled Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton 5-2, Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. defeated Toronto's John Epping 7-3 and Glen Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont. edged Winnipeg's Reid Carruthers 5-4.

Jacobs sits in second place at 4-1 while Calgary's Kevin Koe, Edmonton's Brendan Bottcher, Gushue, Epping and Howard are tied for third at 3-2.

The finals at the $200,000 competition are scheduled for Sunday.

The Players' Championship is usually an emotional finale to the curling season and this year is no exception.

It could also be the last hurrah for veteran skip Stoughton, who is also planning to step away from the game. For others, this is the last event before lineup changes are made in the off-season.

Nedohin hasn't ruled out making appearances at a few events next season and might be up for a run at the provincials. She's going to enjoy the coming months and maybe give it more consideration later in the year.

But she hasn't given her two-decade run in the sport much thought. She's too busy enjoying the present and looking forward to the future.

"I just know I needed some downtime," Nedohin said. "So I'm not reflecting back because I'm still here. I'm living it."

As curlers entered the playing area Friday after the morning draw, Nedohin drew many hellos and well-wishes. She loves the camaraderie, fun and pleasure of elite competition, but is ready to spend more time with family, including watching her two daughters play sports like ringette, lacrosse, water-skiing and curling.

"I want to be that fan in the stands and I want to be that coach behind the boards," she said. "It's another aspect of life."

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Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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