It’s not easy to find the spotlight when you’re curling in the shade cast by Jennifer Jones. Canada’s Olympic gold medallist has won five world championships and a dozen provincial titles in Manitoba.
But amidst all the attention Jones’s rink has received in the past few years, Kerri Einarson and her team quietly improved, waiting for their opportunity to make a bold statement. Last season was their chance. Einarson, 29, skipped her team to a breakout year, winning the Manitoba provincial championship and earning a spot in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The rink made it all the way to the bronze-medal match, where they lost to Jones (who’d beaten them in the provincial finals two years in a row in 2014 and 2015). Einarson’s rink also won its first title at the Tour Challenge Tier 2 on the World Curling Tour. “We’re a good team, but we were never really noticed until we won that [Tier 2 event] and got ourselves up there,” Einarson says. “Everything last year was amazing. It was a dream come true.”
Einarson started curling when she was eight, following her uncle Greg McAulay, who won the Brier and World Championship in 2000. It’s continued to be a family affair ever since. She and her brother, Kyle Flett, a year older, curled almost every day at the rink in Petersfield, Man., just north of Winnipeg. Both showed promise at the competitive level throughout their teens. They’d often be competing in the men’s and women’s sides of the same tournaments, cheering for each other and giving high-fives, until tragedy struck when Kyle was killed in a snowmobile accident when he was 20 years old. He’s continued to be an inspiration to Einarson throughout her ascent. “Every time I step on the ice, I talk to him a bit. I can feel him out there,” she says. “It’s nice to curl and think he’s out there with me.”
For the past three years, she’s had two other inspirations, as well: her twin girls, Kamryn and Khloe. Einarson and her husband had the girls just as she was getting together with her rink of Selena Kaatz, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish. Ever since, she’s worked to balance her young family, her career as a rehabilitation specialist and the team’s aspirations to rise through the ranks of curling.
It took hard work and focus, on and off the ice. Last year, the team sought the help of Cal Botterill, a sports psychologist, whom Einarson credits with helping the group achieve success this past season. He helped them meld as a team, supporting each other and staying calm under pressure. “We have to be more consistent,” Einarson says. “Instead of just two of us curling well here and two of us curling well there … to be one of the top teams, we need to curl well every game.”
Those years of work have given them national recognition—Team Einarson is ranked fifth in the country and plans to keep rising. But they have one familiar giant to take down before they get to where they want to be. Team Jones remains the top rink in Manitoba and the main obstacle in Einarson’s way. “They’re a great team,” she concedes, noting that she’s long looked up to Jones. “I just hope this year we’ll beat them when it really counts.”