Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jones curls great, just might be 'greatest'

Skip favoured to claim her second world championship

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Funny thing about being considered "the greatest" at anything -- it takes time, no matter who can vie for such an august title.

Even though they called him the Great One, Wayne Gretzky had to play two decades and win all those Stanley Cups with the Oilers and claim the all-time scoring lead before he could be considered as great as Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe or Rocket Richard.

Is Tiger Woods the greatest golfer ever? Not yet. Although he's won 14 major championships, he's still chasing the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, and who knows how those reconstructed knees and a personal life now under reconstruction will hold up?

You know, over time.

Which brings us to Jennifer Jones, who this weekend will once again represent Canada at the Ford World Women's Curling Championship in Swift Current, opening against Sweden on Saturday (8 p.m., TSN).

When you look at Jones' body of work, it seems the St. Vital skip may be writing the middle chapters of a career that could well eclipse that of those considered the greatest curlers, such as the late Sandra Schmirler and Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones.

Think about it: Jones has already won four Canadian titles, including three straight, with a foursome that includes longtime third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin. She's won a world title (2008 in Vernon, B.C.) and in Swift Current will be a favourite to win a second. She's represented Manitoba four times in junior, winning the Canadian title in 1993.

Still, there's work to be done: Jones hasn't won an Olympic medal (Schmirler won gold in Nagano) or skipped a team to six Canadian titles (Colleen Jones). But that's where time comes into the equation again. Jones is 35 years old, eight years younger than Cheryl Bernard, who just won a silver medal at the Vancouver Games. And if an Olympic trial were held tomorrow, the Winnipeg outfit would be an odds-on favourite to win.

Yet for all those championships, it's curious that even now, Jones insists she's not chasing numbers. Or Schmirler, for that matter.

"Honestly, it was about dreaming," Jones said Thursday.

"I had a dream to be a Scotties champion and we did that. Now we've done it four times. It really sunk in this year when we won three in a row that it was incredible.

"I never thought in a million years that we would do that. Not that I didn't think we were good enough, but just that it's so hard to do.

"It's something that I'll never forget. Ever."

 

"I mean, now it's something more than having a dream come true; it's having something beyond your wildest imagination come true. We've very privileged to be able to say that."

But that's how it works, doesn't it? Some very good teams never win so much as one championship. On the other hand, Colleen Jones won four straight Scotties. Who knows how many titles Schmirler would have today if not for the cancer that took her life 10 years ago? She would have been 45 and probably still curling.

The final chapters of Jones' competitive career have yet to be penned. She's already guaranteed another spot as Team Canada in next year's Scotties in Charlottetown. There will be another Olympic trials for Sochi, Russia, in 2014. The pages are there to be turned.

"It blows me away sometimes to see how much we've accomplished," Jones said. "But it's not about records. Most of the time, we don't even know they are records until the media tells us."

If you suggest to Jones that with, say, one or two more world titles and an Olympic medal she might be remembered as "the greatest," it's as though the concept is as foreign to her as, well, Chinese skip Bingyu Wang.

"Honestly, we've already achieved more than I ever thought possible," she said. "I think this team will be remembered regardless of what we do in the future, so... we're just playing because we love to play and, hopefully, get some wins along the way."

Fair enough. But time can be like a stone-cold draw to the button. It has to get there first and a lot of things can happen along the way. If that's the analogy to Jones' career, then she's already thrown the rock and the weight looks good out of her hand.

Just remember, no one gets to be the greatest until all the rocks have come to rest. But only a select few even get the chance.

Jones' rock is at the hog line and the line is perfect.

It's up to her sweepers now.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2010 C1

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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