Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Oly gold: Now what? Team Jones doesn't know

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Three-quarters of Canada's gold medal-winning women's curling team is too focused on enjoying the aftermath of their Olympic experience to worry about what the future might bring.

Third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen continued their whirlwind existence Tuesday morning at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café, signing autographs, posing for pictures and getting tons of fingerprints all over their precious hardware.

But they acknowledged some decisions are going to have to be made before too long and the ramifications could have serious consequences for their curling careers.

Their skip, Jennifer Jones, wasn't able to be at the café event as she had to catch a plane to go pick up her infant daughter, Isabella, from Toronto. And that's where things get complicated.

Jones' partner, Brent Laing, is the second for Glenn Howard's Ontario rink, one of the best in the country on the men's side and which may still have Olympic aspirations of its own.

Just how long the couple will continue to live in different provinces remains to be seen. What if they want another child? Might Laing relocate to Winnipeg and try to hook up with a prominent team here? Or could Jones, who works as a senior legal adviser with National Bank Financial, move east?

Officer said, "The short answer is 'we don't know,' In all honesty, we've had very little conversation about the future. Right now we just want to enjoy what we've accomplished together and what we've achieved because this is a great time in our lives. There obviously are going to be some things we'll have to figure out with lives and families so we'll sit down and have a good conversation about it."

Lawes, the newest member of the team, said she couldn't imagine playing with anybody but Jones as their skip.

"That's where we've left the conversation for now. We look forward to figuring things out in the future but we're going to stay in the present and enjoy this whole Olympic experience. We'll move forward into the spring time," she said.

The trio gushed about their experience at the Olympics, which included playing ping pong in the Canadian residence with a few members of the men's hockey team (plus a few celebratory beers with them after their own gold medal victory), taking in some of the other sports, including figure skating and hockey, and taking selfies with fellow Winnipegger Jonathan Toews during the closing ceremonies.

One of the many highlights for Officer was being part of the entire Canadian team where athletes from every sport encouraged each other daily.

"The great part about that was the support we felt from other Canadian athletes and the support they felt they were getting from us," she said.

Kevin Dineen and Mike Babcock, who coached the women's and men's hockey teams respectively, came up to the curlers after their own goal medal victories and told them how much their undefeated run inspired their teams.

"Some of the hockey girls snuck into their coach's office after their warm-up and before their (gold medal) game to watch the end of our (gold medal) game. And the men watched a motivational video that included us. That was really cool to us," she said.

Lawes said she was constantly elbowing her teammates to remind them where they were.

"We got there three days before the opening ceremonies so we got to do some touristy things and we're like, 'We're at the Olympics.' We said that every single day. We'd walk to our venue and the Olympic torch was there. 'That's the Olympic torch. We're at the Olympics,' " she said.

All three said the opening ceremonies were beyond their wildest dreams.

McEwen said they were being walked through the stadium's basement to a ramp when suddenly they were hit with the blinding lights of the festivities above. Then they linked arms and walked out to the deafening cheers.

"It was unbelievable," she said. "It was the coolest thing to be a part of."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 C1

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