Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jones: from the Olympic media bench to the ice

Four years ago in Vancouver, Jennifer Jones sat beside me on the media bench covering the Olympic curling for Yahoo! It was a fun week, getting to know her better and enjoying the Vancouver Olympic experience. But one thing was very clear: Jones didn’t want to be on the bench; she wanted to be curling. You could tell it was eating her up to be watching, rather than calling shots.
Now finally, she’ll get that chance in Sochi, Russia.

Jones, to me, is the ultimate competitor. She loves to curl and loves to win. That’s what drove her to change her team, dropping Cathy Overton-Clapham in favour of Kaitlyn Lawes, a move that saw her become Public Enemy No. 1 for many curling fans. I can still remember the boos she received at the Scotties in Charlottetown as she faced off against her former third.

We’ll never know if Jones would have won the Trials with Overton-Clapham, but she felt she had a better chance with Lawes. She made a tough move with one goal in mind and it worked out for her.

Of course after a tough week, the lawyer who now lives in Horseshoe Valley, Ont., will have an even tougher one at the Olympics.

The lead up will be smothering and the competition in the women’s field will be exceptionally tough. As good as Jones is, it would be hard to consider her and the squad the outright favourites. Her international record isn’t stellar and every game will be do or die.

Somehow, I think she’ll be up for the task in Russia.

In the papers, Paul Wiecek noted that, remarkably, the Jones rink is the first one from curling-mad Manitoba (you know, the province with curling licence plates) to make it to the Olympics in curling.

For the first time since curling became a full medal sport in Nagano in 1998, a team from Manitoba will represent Canada in Olympic curling and it will be Winnipeg's Jones, who saw a lifelong dream culminate spectacularly Saturday night at the MTS Centre in an 8-4 win over Sherry Middaugh in the women's final of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings. 
"I can't even describe it," Jones sobbed afterward. "You dream of it since you're a little kid and we've had many dreams come true. But this is so rare, this opportunity. Our dreams came truetoday -- and in the most amazing way. It's unbelievable."

In the Sun, Jim Bender relates why seven is Jones’ favourite number and how the Curling Gods smiled down on the skip in the seventh end on the seventh day.

Jennifer Jones was born on the seventh day of the seventh month, and readily admits that her lucky number is seven.  
In fact, the Manitoba skip wears 77 on her regular uniform. 
And it was in the seventh end that Jones cracked a three to take a 7-3 lead en route to an 8-4 victory over Ontario's Sherry Middaugh in the women's final of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials before 8,565 fans at the MTS Centre on Saturday night. 
On the seventh day of the 12th month.

Meanwhile Cam Cole points out in Post Media that the country is about to get a lot more Jennifer Jones and deservedly so, after a game in which there wasn’t much fanfare – just a lot of good shotmaking.

To those who think Jennifer Jones has been overexposed as the face of women’s curling in Canada, tough luck. 
The 39-year-old Winnipeg skip and her photogenic team, relentlessly marketed by the Canadian Curling Association, is about to get an even higher profile after dispatching the Sherry Middaugh rink of Coldwater, Ont., 8-4 in the final of the Roar Of The Rings. 
It was a strangely quiet, clinical performance,punctuated only occasionally by a roar for a theatrical shot, as the Jones rink choked off any thoughts of a Middaugh upset from the very first end. That’s when second Jill Officer made a triple takeout en route to blanking the end.

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