Jennifer Jones hires Viktor Kjäll as team’s new coach

Jennifer Jones delivers a rock during the fifth round-robin draw of the Canadian Beef Masters on Oct. 24, 2018, in Truro, N.S. (Anil Mungal)

TRURO, N.S. — Viktor Kjäll didn’t take long to accept Jennifer Jones’s offer to coach her Winnipeg-based curling team.

Kjäll still wanted to coach after parting ways with Scotland’s Team Kyle Smith following last season and received a call from the reigning world women’s champion and 2014 Olympic gold medallist during the summer.

The 33-year-old Kjäll — who is originally from Sweden and now lives in Whitby, Ont. — said he felt humbled by the request from Jones.

“I didn’t have to think too much about it,” Kjäll said Wednesday during the Canadian Beef Masters. “I felt like it was a new challenge for me to take on so I said, well, they’re the No. 1 team in the world, so yeah, it’s exciting.”

Wendy Morgan, who previously coached the club, had decided to retire and Jones began her quick search for a new bench boss.

“We’ve just had so much respect for him as a human being, as a coach, as an athlete,” Jones said. “We approached him to see if he wanted to be part of our team in some capacity and we’re very excited that he said yes.”

“Viktor had everything that we were looking for,” she added. “It’s great to have his brain once in a while. He’s not going to be with us at every event; He is working. We’re really excited with what he can bring to the team.”

Kjäll also works at Toronto’s Granite Club and will not be available for all of the team’s events but expects to attend three or four this season.

“There will be quite a bit of training between events,” Kjäll said. “Jenn will come and practice with me a couple of times at my club, so that’ll be great and then we’ll see. If I can get more time off work, I’ll probably get a few more chances but it’ll probably be three or four events this season, I would think.

“We keep in contact between events as well. I kind of know what’s going on all the time. These days it’s so easy with FaceTime, Skype and all those kinds of things. We’ll stay in touch.”

Although third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen are in Winnipeg, Jones lives in Shanty Bay, Ont., and Kjäll anticipates she’ll be making frequent trips down Highway 400 to join him at the Granite Club.

“She’s only about an hour-and-a-half from my club where I work right now so that kind of helps. She can come down and practise with me every now and then,” Kjäll said. “Hopefully, we can bring the team in for a couple practises as well. They’ve got a pretty busy schedule. They just arrived from China as well so they’re in a pretty hectic November and December but after Christmas we’ll probably get some more time together.”

Kjäll played lead for compatriot Niklas Edin and is a two-time Olympian capturing the bronze medal for Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. He also earned the world championship in 2013 plus back-to-back world bronze medals in 2011 and 2012.

After stepping back from competitive curling, Kjäll remained active in the game and started coaching Team Kyle Smith in 2015. He guided them for three seasons and represented Great Britain at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

One may think Jones, who has won just about everything in the sport, wouldn’t necessarily need a coach, however, Kjäll believes he can bring new ideas and perspectives to the table.

“It’ll maybe be a different voice than what they’re used to in the past and just focus a lot on the details,” he said. “I’m pretty much open to whatever they want. I’ll be there to support them in any way. Events like this, you look at rocks, opponents and ice and all that, so I’ll keep doing that and whatever I can help them with, I’ll be happy to do that.”

“We’re always looking for somebody who we believe has a lot of understanding of the game from all aspects,” added Jones, who has won a record nine Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s titles. “Viktor has that. He’s played at the highest level. He’s been a front-end player, he sweeps, he understands strategy. He’s coached at the Olympics. He just brings so many assets that we feel very fortunate.”

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