Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jones' success rooted in history

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The roar of victory could be heard across Canada, but it was loudest in Manitoba, which has been a curling powerhouse for more than 100 years.

Jennifer Jones and her team not only won Olympic gold, they did it with a perfect 11-0 record, which has only been done once before, by a Canadian men's team led by Kevin Martin.

Ms. Jones won a world championship once, as well as four Canadian crowns. That puts her in elite company, an honour she shares with many Manitobans, men and women.

Manitoba women have won the national curling title eight times since a women's event was established in 1961, while men have won 27 times since 1927.

Given Manitoba's relatively small population, some explanation is needed for our high success rate with the rocks.

Curling was played here before Manitoba was a province, but it was firmly established by the 1870s following the influx of Anglo-Protestants who brought with them their enthusiasm for the game.

In the winter of 1902-03, a group of Scottish curlers toured North American cities, including Winnipeg, which they quickly showered with superlatives for its skill and enthusiasm for the game. They called it one of the world's leading curling capitals and even "a curling mecca," according to Curling Capital: Winnipeg and the Roarin' Game, 1876 To 1988, by Morris Mott and John Allardyce.

It's an understatement to say Manitobans took to the game. A journalist once said Manitoba was "the curling cradle of the nation," while another called Winnipeg "a curling-mad city in a curling-mad province."

It's no accident, then, that the Manitoba bonspiel is the world's largest.

Women were encouraged to curl early in the province's history, even though it was known as "a manly sport." Ms. Jones' success is a legacy of that long tradition of competitive female curlers in Manitoba.

The female tradition in hockey -- Canada's national obsession -- is not as strong, but hopefully the success of Canada's women's team will encourage more young women to take up the sport.

Manitoba's curling organizations and the quality of its coaches are respected everywhere, while the media pay special attention to the game.

That, and superstars such as Jennifer Jones, should help keep Manitoba in the national and international curling spotlight long into the future.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2014 A8

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