TEAM JONES

Official Website of Team Jennifer Jones. 2014 Olympic Gold Medalists in women's Curling. Skip - Jennifer Jones, Third - Kaitlyn Lawes, Second - Jill Officer, Lead - Dawn McEwen

Olympic champ Jennifer Jones back at Manitoba Scotties as top seed

BY PAUL FRIESEN, WINNIPEG SUN

Team Canada's Jennifer Jones and teammates were all smiles as they clinched the World Financial Group Continental Cup over Team Europe at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, Alta. on Sunday January 11 2015. Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun/QMI   

Team Canada's Jennifer Jones and teammates were all smiles as they clinched the World Financial Group Continental Cup over Team Europe at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, Alta. on Sunday January 11 2015. Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun/QMI

  

It’s become the cold, hard truth of the Manitoba women’s curling championship: when Jennifer Jones is in it, she wins it.

The last five times Canada’s First Lady of the rock has played for a provincial title, she’s left with the crown.

The numbers would no doubt be even more staggering, but Jones hasn’t had to play the provincials in the years after she wins the Canadian Scotties, which she’s done four times.

Named the top seed on Wednesday to absolutely nobody’s surprise, Jones this year will try to become the first woman to win seven Manitoba titles as a skip.

“I had no idea,” Jones, on the line from Banff, site of this week’s Skins Game, said, Wednesday. “I remember winning the first and thinking that all my dreams have come true.”

That was 2002.

Since then, she’s added provincial titles in ’05, ’07, 08, ’12 and ’13, those four Canadian championships and an Olympic gold medal, last year.

So, with apologies to the good folks of Winkler who’ll be hosting the event, is there any reason to even bother playing — can’t we just hand Team Jones the win and another trip to the national stage?

“Nobody’s invincible,” the 40-year-old said. “Anyone can be beaten on any given day. Like I said even heading into the Olympics: all you can ever ask yourself is to do your very best. And that’s all we want to do next week.”

If they do that, nobody stands a chance.

If they don’t, the challengers will be ready to pounce.

Who’s the top contender?

The seedings say Jill Thurston and Kristy McDonald, in that order.

McDonald is the only remaining member of last year’s winning Chelsea Carey rink to play here next week.

With Carey playing in Alberta, McDonald went back to skipping and the results have been a pleasant surprise for the new mother.

“I’ve been curling a ton, way more than I set out to curl this year,” she said. “I skipped for a long time, so there’s no reason to think I couldn’t have stepped back into it real easily. But I didn’t want any expectations, either, because I didn’t know how it was going to go with the baby and child care.

“And it started off well and we got invitations to a couple of Slams, and things kind of took off from there. And it’s hard to turn those down when you get the call.”

Comparing this Scotties to last year’s is like night and day for McDonald.

Her history of heartbreaking losses had her actually dreading the event 12 months ago.

“You lose your fourth final, and it just kept getting tougher and tougher every time,” McDonald said. “I’m sure if you asked (Mike) McEwen he’d say the same thing. It just becomes this thing, this beast that lingers. And you try to ignore it, but it’s not fun.

“Honestly, the last four or five years I’ve not looked forward to provincials at all. It was a miserable experience. I’m just glad that build-up of losing finally ended.”

Of course, Jones contributed to that miserable run. More than once.

But with a trip to the national Scotties under her belt, McDonald has a new-found appreciation for the work that’s gone into making the best women’s team on the planet.

“I know the amount of professionalism they bring — I’ve been on a professional team,” McDonald, 35, said. “And I don’t begrudge them winning. I’m not in that place anymore where I think we deserve a chance. I know what they deserve, because I know how hard they work.

“If they win they’ll be the best to represent us.”

As for what it will it take to knock them off — how about near perfection.

At least, on the final Sunday.

“It’s going to take an elite final,” McDonald said. “Experience is so huge. And nobody’s as experienced as them. There’s plenty of teams capable of beating them. Beating them in the final is a whole other story. They know how to play their best in this thing, and they usually do.”

McDonald ranks one spot behind Thurston on the World Curling Tour money list and order of merit.

“There’s a lot of great teams,” McDonald said. “It’s just that Jones has set the bar pretty high, and it’s tough to beat them.

“But it’ll be interesting to see people try.”

 

Gold Everywhere at Curling Skins Game

Dave Whitfield

January 8, 2015

Submitted Photo Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen and Kirsten Wall with their gold medals in Sochi. 

Submitted Photo

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen and Kirsten Wall with their gold medals in Sochi. 

Gold – the word has such a nice, rich, ringing sound to it.

In Canada, the possibility of striking it rich sparked the 1897 gold rush to the Klondike and led to the establishment of Dawson City and the Yukon Territory.

Thousands left their homes for places unknown to endure brutal conditions in their quest for the precious metal. Some struck it rich, some perished.

Since then, Canadians have continued seeking gold, though often as not the quest is through athletic endeavours.

The champions of a number of those quests will be on display, Jan. 16-18 at the Fenlands recreation centre, when the Pinty’s All-Star Curling Skins Game takes over the facility.

In all, $100,000 will be up for grabs. In the 2014 event, Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton drew to the button against Alberta’s Kevin Martin in the final for a $37,000 win.

In fact, the theme of gold medallists will be strong at the Pinty’s event, which will be broadcast on TSN. Gold medals from different levels of curling can be found everywhere among skins game participants.

For the 2015 Pinty’s event, gold medallists taking part include the 2014 Sochi Olympics champion Jennifer Jones rink from Winnipeg and the Brad Jacobs rink from Sault Ste. Marie.

Both were in Banff last year in January; Jacobs to take part in the first curling skins game (men’s rinks only) to be hosted in Banff, and Jones to take part in an official Olympic Games sendoff.

No doubt the Jones rink in particular looks back fondly on its Banff visit prior to the Sochi Olympic Games. After all, once they took part in the Olympics sendoff in Banff, the Manitoba foursome (Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen) tore through the Olympic field from start to gold versus Sweden undefeated – the first women’s rink to do so.

The Jacobs rink (third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden) had a somewhat more difficult tour through the Olympics (7-2 in round robin) before defeating Great Britain for gold.

“We’re really looking forward to the skins game in Banff,” said Officer, who interrupted some Christmas shopping after returning from a successful event in Japan “And we’re really glad Pinty’s and TSN decided to sign up women for the event this year” (for the first time since 2003).

Luckily for the Jones rink, they do compete in the Continental Cup event in Calgary the week before the skins game. The Continental Cup, said Officer, which features competition in several different formats, is the only place the foursome has played for skins.

“Every end is its own game and there’s always rocks in play. The Continental Cup and skins game will be a great start to the new season. We didn’t play our best in Japan, but we found a way to grind it out, get into the final and win.”

Unfortunately for many women’s rinks in Canada, after striking gold in Sochi, Jones and company have committed to another four-year Olympics cycle for a shot at another medal in Korea in 2018.

“We did have certain expectations going to Sochi,” said Officer. “But the Games exceeded anything we could have imagined. It wasn’t just the competition, but meeting other athletes – hockey players, figure skaters and speed skaters – and living in the village.

“Curlers never stayed in the Olympic village before, so it made the most sense. It really was an awesome experience.

“And we all really enjoy playing together, so we all made a commitment in spring to try and make it back. It’s exciting, because you never know if you’ll get back.”

Joining Jones on the women’s side of the Pinty’s All-Stars Skins Game are Ontario’s Rachel Homan (current and 2013 Canadian champion and 2014 world silver medallist), Alberta’s Val Sweeting (2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts finalist) and Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey (third at 2014 Scotties).

On the men’s side, joining Jacobs will be Ontario’s Glenn Howard (four-time world/gold medal and Brier champion), Alberta’s Kevin Koe (2014 Brier/Canadian champion) and Alberta’s John Morris (2010 Olympic gold medallist, who will represent Canada at the Brier this year.

With the addition of the women’s teams, TSN’s skins game broadcast coverage extends to 18 hours.

Tickets for the Pinty’s event are available through The Banff Centre at 1-800-413-8368.

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