To say Penticton’s Arlene Kolundzic was at a loss for words after finding out she would be driving a 2018 Ford Escape SE rent free for the next two years is an understatement.
“I am just, I can’t believe that I’m, just in awe,” she stammered as she stood beside the shiny brown vehicle under the glare of the TV lights on the first day of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the South Okanagan Events Centre. “I just really can’t believe that this has happened.”
Nearby were members of the Team Manitoba curling team, who were responsible for Kolundzic getting to enjoy that new car smell for the next 24 months.
She and three other fans from the Okanagan Valley, Cathy Thompson of Oliver, Ray Turner of Kelowna and Blaine Lodomez of Penticton were paired with the four finalists after Friday’s opening round of the Ford Hot Shots competition.
The other three people received a $500 donation to the charity of their choice and the winning Jones team pocketed $15,000 for their efforts.
“I was really expecting to come out and be a runner up, not a winner,” said Kolundzic, whose husband is in a wheelchair and who often helps other elderly people with walkers and wheelchairs and does errands and provides a personal taxi service. “This will be a perfect vehicle for that too.”
She was also particularly pleased of her pairing with the Manitoba rink after they earned a berth in the finals.
“I was just so happy when I found out last night (Friday)” said Kolundzic. “I’ve been following her (Jones) all along and after last night I thought I might have a chance.”
The Hot Shots event had a different format this time around from the previous 23 years.
Instead of an individual, it was a team competition and rather than the top scorer getting a lease on a Ford vehicle it was changed to a cash prize for the curlers.
Each team member contributed points on four shots designed by Curling Canada.
That included shooters trying to replicate Northern Ontario skip Al Hackner’s famous shot at the 1985 Brier, a challenging, round-the-horn triple take out, a straight raise tap and a drag-effect double take out to earn points.
After the ice dust settled, it was Manitoba finishing on top with 57 points, 10 more than runner up Alberta. Nova Scotia was third with 44 and New Brunswick, which was first after the first round with 43 points, wound up with 36 points.
In the final it was lead Dawn McEwen of Manitoba was the top point-getter with 18 out of a possible 20, that included scoring perfect fives on three of her shots.
Third Shannon Birchard added 17 points of her own with second Jill Officer and Jones rounding out the scoring for the winners.