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Jennifer Jones takes out Brits, goes for gold in Sochi 0

By Ted Wyman, Winnipeg Sun

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SOCHI, Russia - 

It was the moment she had been waiting for all her life and she wasn't about to let it go to waste.

It was the biggest moment of the biggest game on the biggest stage in the world.

Sitting in the hack with a cold draw needed and draw weight in her pocket.

Just make it. It doesn't matter that it's the semifinal at the Olympic Winter Games. You just make it.

It's what the great skips do.

And there's no doubt, Jennifer Jones is a great skip.

Jones nailed a draw to the four-foot with her last rock in the 10th end to preserve a 6-4 victory over Great Britain on Wednesday, booking a spot in Thursday's gold-medal game against Sweden at the Olympic Winter Games.

"I'm so proud of us," said Jones, whose team is guaranteed at least a silver medal. "I thought we came out and played lights out. In the biggest moment, under the most pressure, we made a really finesse shot to win the game.

"I knew I was going to have that draw to the four-foot and it's been a really comfortable shot for me all week. I felt really good with draw weight."

Jones already is one of the most accomplished women's curlers of all time and will get her chance to add to her legacy by standing on top of an Olympic podium on Thursday.

Her story at these Games has been remarkable. Just 18 months after having ACL surgery and 15 months after becoming a mother for the first time, Jones has dominated the Olympic field, winning all 10 games, including a tough, grinding semifinal victory over defending world champion Eve Muirhead.

Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen will play for a gold medal, something they have dreamed of since curling became part of the Olympics in 1998.

"It's crazy to think we're going to be on that podium," said Jones, a 39-year-old from Winnipeg. "I'm not going to lie. It was an emotional win. We've dreamed of this since we were little girls. We're going to be on that podium no matter what and nobody can ever take that away from us."

The Jones foursome got some breaks in the semifinal, particularly scoring a deuce in the first end after Muirhead's first rock picked and went astray.

They flirted with danger in a few ends -- Officer had outright misses in the seventh and eighth -- but Lawes and Jones both made tricky doubles to bail Canada out.

The long double Jones made in the eighth end truly changed the course of the game, which could easily have been tied going into the ninth.

"We made a lot of big shots in the second half of the game, a lot of cross-house doubles when it looked like they might get a two," Jones said. "We just never let them get their deuce in the second half so we always maintained control."

And so it came down to the 10th end, where Muirhead made things interesting with a long double of her own with her last rock.

That forced Jones to draw against three -- child's play to someone with her pedigree and two of the best sweepers in the game in Officer and McEwen.

"Absolutely I was nervous," Jones said. "If you don't get that adrenaline rush and it's a guarantee, then why play? That's what you train for and I've had to make a lot of big shots to win games before, so you just embrace it.

"I let it go and I knew it was close and that's a great feeling. It was amazing. It was (probably) the most excited I've ever been to win a game."

Jones wasn't perfect in the semifinal -- she came up light on a draw attempt in the fourth end -- but she did curl 89% and proved why she's one of the most reliable skips in the history of the game.

"I wouldn't want anyone else throwing that last rock," Lawes said. "She's an amazing person and an amazing skip and she's so talented."

As great as the semifinal win felt, this journey is far from over. Jones and her teammates will face a tough test from Sweden and will have to maintain the focus that has helped them win 10 straight games.

" We're really happy now that we have a medal," Officer said. "That's a huge accomplishment. But we'll go out there and play to the best of our abilities and try our hardest and try to get that gold."

It's already been an historic week for the team from Winnipeg's St. Vital Curling Club.

They're the only women's team to go through the Olympics unbeaten to this point. They're guaranteed a medal.

But more than anything, Jones and her teammates have handled this experience the right way. They've enjoyed every last minute it of it, have soaked up every drop of Olympic atmosphere.

Only the rarified air of a golden moment in the medals plaza could make this any better.

Bet on it happening.

ted.wyman@sunmedia.ca

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