Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Team Jones' Olys debut a family affair

Players' parents, spouses in house to cheer Manitoba medal hopefuls

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The pipes were loud enough to cover up a gasp and the soft sobs as Carol Jones watched her little girl walk onto the Olympic stage.

The moment was the culmination of so many cold days and nights spent on sheets of Manitoba curling ice.

Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones is now a woman and a mother herself. But before she became one of the most dominant curlers on the planet, she was a tag-along following Carol and husband Larry to their games.

On Monday, Jennifer led Team Canada into action at the Winter Olympics taking care of China in no-nonsense fashion, wrapping things up 9-2 in just seven ends. She is a favourite here and if she can perform at the level that has earned her four Canadian titles and one world championship she will find herself on the medal podium.

"Absolutely wonderful. This is a dream come true for her, and certainly this is a dream come true for me as well," said Carol, sitting in the stands alongside her son-in-law, Brent Laing, and other Team Canada family members.

"I have to admit I secretly shed a couple of tears. It's a little overwhelming. I'm just thrilled to be able to be here. My husband and I are just over the top. Our daughter is in the Olympics. That was such a moment to see her get piped out here."

When told, after her game, that her mother had choked up at the sight of her on Olympic ice, Jennifer had to catch her own breath.

"Oh, you're going to make me cry, too," she said. "It's so great to have our parents here. They're such a big part of this."

Parents get their kids started in activities every day. But every child taken to a piano lesson doesn't play Massey Hall. A first skating lesson doesn't often result in an NHL career. A chance to slip around on a curling rink as a 10-year-old doesn't guarantee a trip to the Olympics.

"Yeah, we're going to remember this one for a long time. There's nothing better than sliding over the Olympic rings and just soaking up the venue," said Jennifer. "We loved every second of it, and the results definitely helped that moment."

Jennifer and her rink peaked for the Olympic Trials held in Winnipeg last December but have had little competition since. She curled 96 per cent in the opener and showed no signs of rust.

Manitobans have watched Jennifer grow from a teenaged junior champ to one of the world's best as well as a corporate lawyer and mother of one-year old daughter Isabella.

She's certainly a favoured daughter of the province and big in her parents' house, too.

Windsor Park

"Jennifer started curling probably around 10 or 11, but my husband and I curled before that," said Carol, who still lives in Windsor Park. "In order for parents to curl in those days, they had to bring their kids to the rink. And she just fell in love with the sport. I'm so impressed with her. She's poised and has grace. I can't put into words how proud we are of her."

Larry Jones parked himself in the top row of the family section, away from any distractions, and leaned into every rock his daughter threw.

"This is quite thrilling really. This is a long-time coming for her and a dream she's always had and I'm quite pleased for her," said Larry, politely leaning back to answer questions but not taking his eyes off his daughter on the sheet below. "This has been a success already for her, but it's a story that maybe has a nice ending to it."

The potential of that nice ending had Winnipeg native and World Curling Tour regular Mike McEwen relaxed on Monday. He's come to the Olympics to watch his wife, Team Canada lead Dawn McEwen, chase a medal.

"I wasn't emotional. I'm saving that for when they're in the medal round," said Mike. "It's pretty surreal. Just to see them out there. My job this week is to do whatever Dawn tells me to do. Take care of the parents. And text Dawn every night and every morning so she knows I'm not in any trouble."

Canada third Kaitlyn Lawes, who five years ago lost her father, Keith, and the inspiration she says he provided, shared a moment with her mother Cheryl during the opening ceremony.

"It's special. I always look up for her before every game and let her know that I know she's been there for me all the way," said Lawes. "I make sure and when we get piped out I make sure we make eye contact. I want her to know I'm thinking about her. It's our little thing. It's neat to be where we are and our parents all played a big role in this."

Jennifer and Laing have left Isabella back in Canada with his mother, but the toddler is here in her mother's heart.

"I wear a necklace that says her name so she's here with me," said Jennifer. "I'm keeping notes everyday of things that I think about when I think about her. Just special moments so that when she's older I can tell her that she was a huge part of this for me."

A magical tick in time for grandmother, mom and baby girl. Just imagine if a golden moment comes their way.

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2014 C2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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