Jennifer Jones has played a lot of curling games in her distinguished career, but it’s unlikely that she ever captured a more meaningful contest in as wild a finish as she and her team did on Sunday in the finals of the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials.
The veteran skip and her rink of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Dawn McEwen and Lisa Weagle, needed an extra end to win a 6-5 back-and-forth contest over Tracy Fleury that was marked by stunning misses from two of the world’s best skips in the final two ends. The victory sends the Jones team to the Beijing Olympics.
“Going to the Olympics is a dream come true and getting to do it twice is a privilege,” said the 47-year-old skip, who won a gold medal at the 2014 Games. “To do it with these girls, we’ve had our ups and downs and we’ve worked our butt off the last year and just to see what we can do on the ice, the support that we show each other, it’s just phenomenal.”
The Winnipeg team’s trip to China almost never materialized. In the 10th end, Jones needed a straightforward takeout to score two points and win the game. It was a shot she usually makes with ease. But she appeared to turn the rock in as she released it, causing it to over-curl and roll too far, leading to an extra end.
“We thought we had lost in the 10th for sure,” Fleury told Canadian Press. “I think Jen makes that 99 percent of the time, that shot. So we felt lucky to be able to go to an extra and we really wanted to pull it off there.”
The anguish and shock of the miss were easy to see on Jones’ face, as she tried to re-group for the extra end which she would play without the luxury of last rock. She and her team gathered on the sideboards and tried to shake off the stunning miss, reassuring each other with high-fives.
But there was more disbelief to come. With her final stone, Fleury tried to play a soft-weight hit on a Jones rock which sat half-covered behind a guard. Halfway down it appeared on a good line but then it began to curl. Despite furious sweeping from front end Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish, and urgent yelling by third Selena Njegovan, the rock clanked on the guard, handing the win to the Jones team.
Jones went from despair to joy in the space of one end, capping stunning a turn-around.
“I couldn’t believe I missed that shot in 10,” she said. “I never would have forgiven myself.
“I believe that’s one of our strengths. We really worked on making sure we’re there for each other no matter what and being a true team. I think that put a couple of extra points on the scoreboard and I knew when I missed, they were going to pick me up and how much more can you ask for.”
While the final two ends were the most dramatic of the game, there were a number of other uncharacteristic misses from both teams. A run-back attempt from Njegovan in the third ended up pushing two of her own stones back, although the Team Jones draw for three sailed through the house, leading to a score of just two.
In the sixth, a last-rock draw to the four-foot for two from Jones just grazed a Fleury rock and rolled to the edge of the four-foot. A measure confirmed it had rolled too far, turning a deuce into a single.
In the ninth end, Jones elected to give Fleury’s team a single to retain last rock in the 10th, a strategy that appeared to pay off until her stunning miss.
For Jones, McEwen and Weagle, it will be a second trip to the Olympics, while Lawes will be there for the third time. She won gold with Jones in 2014 and added a second gold in 2018, playing Mixed Doubles with John Morris.
Peterman will be a first-time Olympian.
The team will try to get Canada back on the podium after Rachel Homan’s team failed to earn a medal at the last Olympics in 2018. They will face some stiff competition such as the Anna Hasselborg team from Sweden, the defending champions.