Jennifer Jones and her St. Vital rink are Winnipeg’s newest golden girls.
Hundreds of members and patriotic curling supporters, many dressed in red and white, stopped by the St. Vital Curling Club to witness history this morning, as Jones beat Sweden 6-3 in the gold medal final at the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi.
The Jones foursome -- which includes third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen -- claims Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s curling since 1998 in Nagano.
Jones’ home club hosted a breakfast and viewing party this morning; a packed house ready to rock on every made Canada shot and every Sweden miss.
"The ups and downs were amazing," offered Guy Beaudry, who handles the junior curling program at the St. Vital club. "It was nice that it was such a close game, because it made it so exciting to watch."
Joel Bremault, one of the icemakers at the club, wiped away a tear or two as the Jones rink celebrated on television. She’s been winning for so long now -- at the forefront of the women’s curling game in Canada (four national titles; one world title) -- but this felt different, he said.
"I feel so great for her right now," he said as a packed lounge collectively smiled. "This whole room has watched her play over the years and was with her today. I’m just so proud of her."
The game, a grinding affair where both teams struggled to find consistency in the early ends, was full of ups and downs for the folks at the local club. The giant cheer from the hundreds in attendance when Sweden jammed on an open double attempt in the fourth, leading to an open draw for two for Jones and a 3-1 lead, was followed by a huge sigh of relief when Sweden failed to convert a clean double for a possible four points (they settled for two) in the fifth end.
Quiet ends after the break settled some of the nerves in the St. Vital club, but those anxious times returned as the close game entered the late stages of play. Jones took a 4-3 lead after a measurement in the 8th end. That resulted in a prolonged cheer from the nervous crowd and brought the gold into focus for many.
"I’ve never seen so many people cheer over a dial measurement before," said Steve Passmore, who sat with his sister Amy. "The room just exploded. It was great."
It was a harbinger of things to come. St. Vital’s -- and Canada’s -- loudest cheers came with Jones up 4-3 in the ninth. Sweden whiffed on a tap-back for a tying point, and instead handed Maple Leaf women a steal of two and a 6-3 lead coming home.
Canada ran Sweden out of rocks in the 10th end, and the celebration was on.
"This is fabulous, we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout and result," said club president Duane Budnick. "There were some nervous moments in the fifth end. That was tough to watch. But after that, I had nothing but confidence.
"I knew she’d get stronger as the game went on."
Everyone at the St. Vital rink was feeling rather Jones-y afterwards, too. The senior men’s league teams, which took to the St. Vital ice as Canada was counting stones, each wore the names of the Jones rink on the backs of their jackets as the party upstairs got underway.
Jones, making her first Olympic appearance, pitched a perfect line in Sochi, going undefeated through all 11 games.