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Jennifer Jones is perfect, beats Sweden to win Olympic gold 0

By Ted Wyman, Winnipeg Sun

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SOCHI, Russia - 

As she watched her last rock sliding down the pebble, straight and true as usual, the gold medal just seconds away, Jennifer Jones thought of all the people back home, living and dying with her every Olympic moment.

This was for them.

It was for her too, of course, and her teammates and family and friends and everyone else who made a decades-long journey to the top of the Olympic podium possible.

But really it was for all of Canada, which was why Jones relished the experience of being an Olympian so richly. And it was for her home province of Manitoba and her hometown of Winnipeg.

“We did it, we did it,” Jones said after her 6-3 win over Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson in a tense gold medal game at the Ice Cube Curling Center Thursday.

“We achieved this moment for so many people in our lives. All of our friends and families, the city of Winnipeg, all of Manitoba and Canada and that is priceless really. There’s no bigger moment or feeling in the world than that.

“I couldn’t believe it. To have all of Canada behind us, not the pressure of it but the excitement of having all those people cheering us on and people in Winnipeg cheering us on, sitting there on the edge of their seats, and we did it for them, too.”

When the last rock made contact with a Swedish stone in the 10th end and the gold medal was secure for Canada, Jones and her teammates exploded in a brief celebration but quickly composed themselves in order to graciously thank their Swedish opponents.

After that formality was taken care of, they really let loose, soaking up the moment just as they have every minute of every day here in Sochi.

“We’re Olympic gold medallists . . . I don’t think the magnitude of it has really sunk in,” Jones said. “I’m so emotional. This is something you dream about your whole life, it’s what every athlete wants to do, and we did it. And we did it in a way that we played so consistently all week on the biggest stage in sport. We came out and played our best and I’m so, so proud.”

The Canadians struggled for much of the game, particularly third Kaitlyn Lawes and second Jill Officer, but Jones continually bailed them out and now the 39-year-old lawyer is an Olympic champion.

The best shot of the day came in the ninth end when Jones drew to the button with her last rock to put Sweden fourth Maria Prytz in a tough position. Canada wound up stealing two for a 6-3 lead and ran the Swedes out of rocks in the 10th.

“It was one of those shots where I knew if we could put it in the right spot I didn’t think they would be able to score,” Jones said. “It was a little bit of a gamble but I felt so good with the speed all week. When it stopped, it was in a pretty good position but if it would have been a little bit higher it would have been a problem. No guts no glory.”

This is Canada’s first gold medal in women’s curling since the late Sandra Schmirler won it in Nagano in 1998.

Jones previously won four Canadian championships and one world title and now has to be mentioned among the greatest female curlers of all time.

“She’s absolutely, 100%, the greatest ever,” Officer said of her skip. “I’ve thought that for a long time. There’s a reason I curl with Jennifer. She’s motivated me over the years, made me a better player and I owe a lot to her. She’s determined, she’s a leader.”

Jones and Officer have been teammates, off and on, since they were teenagers, while Lawes and lead Dawn McEwen came on four years ago to give the team a winning combination.

The Jones team is the first in Olympic history to go through the women’s event unbeaten — a perfect 11-0.

“We’re really proud of that,” Jones said. “We came out and played consistent from the start of the week to the final and put our best game on the ice, which is exactly what you want to do in the biggest sporting event. We’re going to have that little OR, Olympic Record, next to our name forever. It’s crazy to me. It’s one of those records that can only be tied and never broken so we’ll always be remembered for it.”

Jones had ACL knee surgery just 18 months ago and became a mother to Isabella just 15 months ago, but she was stellar in the Olympics and she curled 88% in the final against a tough Sweden team.

Though the game was played in the early morning hours in Manitoba, the St. Vital Curling Club was packed with 150-200 people watching the game on TV.

There were a few nervous moments for them and the Canadian fans in the stands, which included Canadian men’s hockey coach Mike Babcock.

In the fifth, Canada was leading 3-1 but had a rough end. The Swedes actually had a chance to make a double to score four and take full control but Prytz’s shot was not quite good enough and the Swedes only scored two to tie the game.

Jones admitted they dodged a bullet.

“Obviously we kept them to two when it wasn’t looking very good that end,” she said. “The thing was it was early in the game and I said, ‘Worst-case scenario, we give up four and we’re only down two.” We’re battlers and we’re tough and we come back.”

Lawes, the youngest member of the team at 25, didn’t have her best day in the final. She was curling only 48% through five ends and contributed to it being as closer game than it should have been.

But she hit the nail on the head with her last words, after all the cheering and jumping for joy and flower presentations were over.

“We’re gold medallists for life and nobody can take that away from us,” she said.

FAMILY ROCK

Kaitlyn Lawes thought of her father, who was taken from her at such a young age.

Immediately after she won an Olympic gold medal on Thursday, the Canadian third gave thanks to the man who remains her inspiration seven years after he passed away when she was just 18.

"I know he would be so proud of me," Lawes said. "I thought about him a lot during the game. I wish that I could share this experience with him, but he was my inspiration."

Jennifer Jones and Jill Officer thought of their partners and their infant daughters, Dawn McEwen of her husband and parents.

There's so much sacrifice that goes into the life of a competitive curler, an Olympian, there should almost be medals for everyone involved.

"My boyfriend Brent (Laing) is competitive curler and he's made me such a better player," Jones said. "He's a huge reason that I came back from surgery, he helped me train, he helped me get to where I need to be. I wish he (was here to) share this with me because I would not be here without him."

Her dad, Larry Jones, has helped her practice ever since she was a teenager and still holds the broom for her today. Her mom, Carol, has basically been a nanny to little Isabella while Jennifer trained for this very moment.

"All of these people have had such a huge impact," Jennifer Jones said.

"Then there's little Isabella at home. She sees me on TV and she starts dancing and clapping and runs to try to give me a kiss. She's 14 months and she's really made me want to go after everything and really show her that dreams do come true and, regardless of the outcome, just enjoy the moment."

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