Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones has been annointed the favourite to win next week’s Manitoba women’s curling championship.
Despite taking almost the entire winter off to have a baby and recuperate from knee surgery, Jones and her team -- third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin -- were announced Wednesday morning as the top seed for the 2013 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which begins next Wednesday in Stonewall.
The Jones foursome was followed in the seedings -- which are voted upon by the competitors -- by second seed Chelsea Carey, third seed Cathy Overton-Clapham, fourth seed Barb Spencer and fifth seed Janet Harvey. The seedings were announced at a news conference Wednesday morning held by Curl Manitoba.
Jones -- a five time Manitoba champion, four time Canadian champion and the 2008 world champion -- played in her first competitive curling event of the 2012-13 season only last weekend, when she skipped her team at the 2013 Continental Cup in Penticton.
Officer said her skip was in mid-season form in BC despite the lengthy absence away from the game. "Jen played great. She had great draw weight. It was awesome to have her back on the ice. It was like she’d never left," said Officer.
Carey -- whose squad has lost the last two provincial finals in dramatic fashion -- was asked whether the recent heartbreaks at the provincials help or hinder her squad heading into next week. "Probably neither. At the end of the day, if you’re thinking about what happened last year, you’re not where you need to be," said Carey.
"You have to put that all away and not focus on it at all. It’s easier said than done, but if I’m thinking about things that happened to me before, there’s no way I’m going to play the way I need to play. That’s mental toughness, it’s being in the zone.
"So the idea is we won’t think about it at all, or at least minimize it as much as possible."
The Scotties will be held Jan. 23-27 in Stonewall, with the winner advancing to represent Manitoba at the Canadian Womens Curling Championship next month in Kingston.
The final three playoff draws of the event will also be broadcast live by Sportsnet, with announcer Roger Millions and 1998 Olympic gold medallist Joan McCusker handling the play-by-play and analysis.