Nothing like curling for Jennifer Jones

THE CANADIAN PRESS

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — Jennifer Jones couldn’t wait to throw her first rock.

The toddler in the daycare of Winnipeg’s St. Vital Curling Club would sneak away from the other children. She could be found with her faced pressed up against the glass, watching parents Carol and Larry curling and wishing she could join them.

"I remember being plastered against the glass and everybody always looking for me," Jones said. "I would always kind of wander off and watch curling.

"I loved it from the very beginning."

Jones literally cut her teeth in a curling club, so once she was allowed on the ice, there was no stopping her. Now 35, married, and a corporate lawyer with an investment company, there’s still no place she would rather be.

"It’s the one moment where it’s all about one thing and it’s awesome," she said. "You get an adrenaline rush. Your heart races and you get this adrenaline rush and who doesn’t like that? It’s like a roller coaster and it’s fun.

"But it’s also relaxing. Your Blackberry can’t go off. You’re out there playing and doing what you love to do. There’s not many people who get to do what they love in life all the time and we do. We’re really lucky for that."

The trend in Canadian women’s curling recently has been for one team to be dominant over a few years. In the 1990s, it was Sandra Schmirler’s team from Saskatchewan that won three world titles and an Olympic gold medal.

Then it was Colleen Jones from Nova Scotia, who won five national championships and two world titles between 1999 and 2004.

With four Canadian titles in six years, Jones is now the face of women’s curling in Canada, despite a disappointing 2-5 record in December’s Olympic trials.

Jones, third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin won a world title two years ago in Vernon, B.C., and are in the playoffs again here. They’re regular winners on the World Curling Tour and topped the money list this season at almost $50,000.

The four have all been willing to invest time and effort in the game. The success they’ve had feeds their confidence from one year to the next.

"We all have the same level of commitment," explains Askin, 29. "We all have the same kind of goals and belief in one another.

"That’s a hard combination to find sometimes with teams."

The skip often gets a disproportionate share of credit/blame for wins and losses. How difficult, or easy, her final shots are depend on the accuracy of those throwing stones before her.

But the skip is the captain of the team. She shoulders most of the responsibility for leadership and setting the emotional tone. "Determined" is the word that pops up the most when Jones’s teammates describe her personality.

"She’s pretty determined, very goal oriented," the 40-year-old Overton-Clapham said. "When there’s something out there she wants, she’s going to do everything she can to get it."

Officer, 34, and Jones have been teammates for 15 years. The second says the defining moment in her curling career was when Jones asked her at age 16 to join her team.

"Jennifer has a lot of drive and a lot of determination and a desire to be great at things," Officer explained. "Even at how good she is, I don’t think she ever lets up on trying to be better.

"She thinks outside the box with what we can do as individual players and as a team. She shows great leadership in that way and tries to make us stronger as a unit and as individual players. For me, I know it helps with my own motivation to continue that as well."

Jones says she’s learned more from her losses than her wins. She missed her last shot of a playoff game against Ontario in the 2002 national championship, called the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and discovered putting extra pressure on herself did not help her execute.

"After that, I learned to enjoy the moment," Jones said. "We’ve been fortunate enough to be on the other side of those games more often than not.

"You just have to lose the big one to realize it’s just a game. Life goes on, the sun comes up the next day. I’ve always had pretty good perspective on it actually. I’ve always just loved to compete.

"I felt pretty privileged with how many wins we’ve managed to have. I look at my (championship) ring and I can’t believe it. I’m still in awe over it."

The team has yet to decide whether it will invest the time and effort it will take to try and represent Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In the meantime, Officer says the team still has a lot to play for.

"Absolutely we would love to be world champions again," she said. "Deep down, there’s still a little bit of disappointment about the trials and not being able to go to the Olympics.

"As big as the trials was, at the same time I was thinking to myself ‘We just had one bad event’ and it just happened to be the wrong one. We haven’t changed as a team.

"I think that gave me perspective going into the Scotties. I think that kind of made a difference, knowing we could achieve things."

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