Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 12/7/2013 11:23 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 12/7/2013 11:45 PM | Updates
They started playing together as teens and grew into almost every success together, becoming Canadian champions, world champions, and mothers.
Now, Jill Officer and Jennifer Jones will move into the last undiscovered part of their curling dream: They are now Olympic athletes. They will wear red jackets in Sochi, like the ones they donned after claiming victory at the MTS Centre on Saturday. The ones that say "Canada" in big clear letters on the front. They put them on in front of so many loved ones: For Officer, that group included her parents and husband, her brother and her best friend.
After the win, she ran over and gave her father and her husband a hug, and that’s when it all began to sink in.
"To play at home, in front of all these people, and to have all this support and all our extended families here, it’s just incredible," said Officer, 38, the ecstasy of the win over Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh still playing across her face. "We’re just so thrilled, and we just really hope that we can represent Canada really well."
If the foursome’s efforts at the Roar of the Rings are any indication, they will.
The Jones rink ran dominant through the Olympic trials, and the final could be one of the finest games of Officer’s career. She curled a superb 99 per cent on 20 shots, including a magnificent triple takeout in the first end to help carry her rink out of a tough spot.
"I felt like I couldn’t wait to play today," she said. "I just wanted to get out here and throw, and it worked... we were hoping the crowd would be on our side, and I’m just glad I could give them something to cheer about."
And so begins the latest chapter of a curling partnership that’s lasted most of Jones and Officer’s lives. The pair first played together in 1992, when they were in their mid-teens, and won the Canadian junior championship together in 1994. Curling wasn’t yet in the Olympics, so they didn’t talk about it much back then.
But they were watching in 1998, when Sandra Schmirler won the first Olympic women’s gold.
"You kind of start to think about it, but it’s a long road," Officer said. "Look at how long. We’ve been playing competitively since then, and here we are, 15 years later and we’re finally here."
Along the way, Officer and Jones became "like sisters," Officer said. They even became parents around the same time, as Jones’ daughter turned a year old last month, and Officer’s daughter Camryn will turn two years old on Thursday. That connection showed in one small moment after Saturday’s victory: While Jones stood in front of a gaggle of cameras, Officer slipped over to smooth her skip’s hair into place.
"We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together over the years," Officer said. "I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else. I just have all the belief in the world in her, and in the whole team, and I’m just so happy."
Updated on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 11:45 PM CST: Corrects age of Officer's child.
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