SOCHI, Russia — The dream has become reality for Jennifer Jones and her Canadian teammates.
Jones, along with third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen, captured the Olympic gold medal in Sochi with a 6-3 victory over Sweden in the final today.
The team will receive their gold medals at a presentation ceremony Saturday evening in Sochi, 10:45 a.m. CT. They are scheduled to arrive back in Winnipeg Monday night at 10:11 p.m.
The Winnipeg native fought off a rough day on the ice and ground it out for eight ends to hold a 4-3 lead, then stole a mammoth two points in the ninth end to take command.
Canada ran Sweden out of rocks in the 10th end.
"It’s just crazy," Jones said. "It’s a dream come true. It’s just amazing. We just had the best week of our lives. We are gold medallists."
Jones finished the event with a perfect 11-0 mark.
She has now added Olympic gold to the world championship she won in 2008 as well as four Canadian crowns. In the process, she has matched Canadian skip Kevin Martin’s feat of winning the Olympic crown with a perfect record.
This is something you dream about your whole life.
There were tears flowing as Jones used her first rock for a wide-open hit to run Sweden out of stones in the 10th end.
"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 that is priceless really. There’s no bigger moment or feeling in the world than that," said an emotional Jones.
"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.
"That’s why I lost it."
First Winnipeg rink to earn Olympic medal
The Jones team becomes the first Winnipeg-based rink to win a medal at the Olympics, and claims the first gold for Canada in women's curling since the late Sandra Schmirler won in 1998 at Nagano, Japan.
Earlier today, Britain’s Eve Muirhead, the 2013 world champion, defeated Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott 6-5 for the bronze medal.
Jones knocked off Muirhead on Wednesday in semifinal play.
"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."
Big misses by Sweden in the ninth end proved to be the difference.
Jones nailed a pressure draw with her last rock of the ninth. That piled the pressure on Sweden’s Maria Prytz, given that Canada had four Canadian rocks in the house. The Swede came up light, wrecking her shot on a stone in the top eight-foot, and Canada stole two.
Swedish skip Margaretha Sigfridsson, who throws lead stones but calls the shots as skip, said the loss was tough to accept.
"Of course, it’s disappointing," Sigfridsson said. "I know we won silver, but it really just feels like we lost gold."
Officer has played with Jones since the two were kids.
"She’s absolutely 100 per cent the greatest ever. I’ve thought that for a long time," said Officer. "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."
Lawes said her skipper isn’t just a superb athlete.
"She’s the best in the world and an amazing talent and a wonderful person. I’ve never met anyone kinder," Lawes said. "It’s been such an amazing journey. All these girls have helped me grow as an athlete but Jen is such an amazing leader and she thinks out of the box to try and get better all the time.
"It’s always about getting better. She’s the best skip in the game. I wouldn’t want anyone else throwing that last draw. I have 100 per cent confidence in her."
Many of the Canadians’ family members were in the crowd to watch. But Kaitlyn’s father, Keith Lawes, died of cancer in November, 2007, just two months before Kaitlyn began an amazing run that saw her win back-to-back Manitoba and Canadian junior titles, as well as a world junior title in 2009.
"I know he would be so proud of me. I thought about him a lot during the game," she said. "I wish that I could share this experience with him, but he was my inspiration."
Jones said her thoughts turned to her supporters immediately after winning.
"I have my mom, my dad and my boyfriend Brent (Laing) here. He’s a competitive curler and he’s made me such a better player. 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 could share this with me because I would not be here without him," she said.
"My dad (Larry Jones) taught me how to curl and he still holds the broom for me when I practice. And there’s my mom, who basically was my nanny for the last year so I could go and train."
Jones couldn’t resist mentioning her young daughter back home.
"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 said. "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."
McEwen said Schmirler’s historic victory 16 years ago proved inspirational.
"Watching Sandra’s team win in Nagano made me think that was something I would love to do, it would be a dream of mine," she said. "I’m so happy I got to do it with these girls."
-- with files from Canadian Press