Cathy Gauthier won't be throwing lead stone for Team Canada this coming season.

Gauthier, a three-time national champion, confirmed Wednesday that she cannot curl for Jennifer Jones' rink because of family commitments.

"Due to the reality of joint custody and the need for flexibility to meet the demands of this curling season," said Gauthier, a 43-year-old single mother of two, "there was significant uncertainty whether I would be able to parent my children when not competing."

"It was a risk I was not willing to take."

Gauthier later confided to The Canadian Press: "There was a very real possibility I would see them (her kids) one or two days a month and that's not parenting. I talked to them about it and they both started to cry and hug me."

Gauthier's teammates – Jones, Jill Officer, Cathy Overton-Clapham – fully support her decision.

"I have always had amazing support from my parents, family, friends and ex-husband and I thank them," Gauthier said, noting a replacement will be announced soon.

"I don't know if you ever replace somebody," Jones claimed. "It's going to be a challenge to find somebody to fit in with our team.

"They won't replace Cathy. They'll just play at that position and probably bring different attributes than what she brought."

The Jones rink captured its first Canadian crown on Feb. 27, counting four points on last rock to defeat Ontario's Jenn Hanna 8-6 in the Tournament of Hearts at St. John's, Nfld.

It marked Manitoba's first national title since Connie Laliberte clinched the Hearts in 1995.

Gauthier also won the Hearts in 1992 and 1995 and is an inductee in the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.

"It's very disappointing and it's a very, very difficult decision for her," said Overton-Clapham, who curled with Gauthier in 1995.

"I know she's having a hard time of it. She's obviously a great player."

"We knew Cathy was having some challenges throughout the year, but we definitely never expected it would come to this," added Officer. "But we're very supportive and understand why she had to make the choice."

with files from CP Online