WINNIPEG — The countdown to the Olympics is on for the Jennifer Jones team and the ride gets better every day.
Since winning the Olympic curling trials in Winnipeg in early December, giving Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen the right to represent Canada at next month’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the support of the country has buoyed a team that at times already enjoyed rock-star status.
"Sitting on an airplane, I got a standing ovation sitting on an Air Canada flight (to Calgary)," Jones said during a round of interviews this morning at their home facility, the St. Vital Curling club. "That was really cool. Who gets to experience that?
"Just people who come up and say, ‘Congratulations, you’re going to the Olympics.’ Definitely, every day, it’s great. Amazing. We’re soaking up every moment of it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’re not going to let one moment pass us by without enjoying it."
Jones said the attention on the team has only increased since an intense trials week and victory at the MTS Centre.
"We definitely get recognized," Jones said. "People have been so amazing. People come up and congratulate you and so so genuinely excited. We’re Olympians and they’re all behind us. That definitely has been more, just the congratulatory comments, the ‘Go, Canada, Go.’ So it’s been an incredible ride so far and I think it’s only going to get better.
"I can’t believe it can get better but I think it will.
"The feeling we get from Canadians is that they’re proud of us, no matter what. So as long as we go out and do our best, that’s all they ask. And the one thing I can guarantee about us is that we’re going to do our best, leave everything out there."
The team has just returned from a weekend in Banff, Alta., where there was an official send-off for all of Canada’s Olympians.
Monday night, their home club hosted a fund-raising night at St. Boniface Golf Club. During the evening, the team’s title sponsor, World Financial Group, unveiled a $25,000 donation raised from within the rank-and-file of the organization to help send their families to Sochi.
"I just get choked up thinking about it," Officer said about the evening. "It’s such a nice gesture, how it came about. And that fact that it came from all 7,000 people. We were in tears. We can’t thank our sponsor enough."
This weekend, the Jones team is headed to Las Vegas for the Continental Cup, their last competition before the Games.
"The Continental Cup is traditionally a pretty fun event," Officer said. "It’s hard not to have fun there.
"But it’s our last competition before Sochi so it’ll be really important to be focused on certain things when we’re there, be really focused on the games we do have."
The team leaves for Switzerland for some training on Jan. 30 and is schedule to arrive in Sochi on Feb. 4, three days before the opening ceremonies.