The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 02/10/2014 5:55 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 02/10/2014 10:09 AM
SOCHI, Russia - They stomped their feet and clapped their hands, and hollered all game long.
But Jennifer Jones and her steely-nerved Canadian teammates played like they couldn't hear them at all.
Amid the din of a deafening Russian crowd that never let up, the Winnipeg skip led Team Canada to a 9-2 victory over China in their opening game of the Sochi Olympics on Monday.
It was both a strong start against a tough opponent for the Canadians, and a great dress-rehearsal for when they eventually play Russia later in the Games.
"You can't really hear very well, but we'll come up with some solutions to that," said Jones, who has hand signals worked out — a hand up means stop sweeping — for when the din of the crowd threatens to drown out her directions.
"I thought we did a good job managing it and we'll figure it out going forward."
Chants of "Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!" echoed around the packed 3,000-seat Ice Cube Curling Center on Monday for Russian skip Anna Sidorova's team, who were beating Denmark 6-4 three sheets over from the Canadians.
Unlike the hardcore fans at the Scotties or Brier, this was a once-every-four-years type of curling crowd that clearly wasn't up on its curling etiquette. They cheered every good Russian shot. They cheered every bad Danish one. They hollered and banged thunderstix when the Russian players were still sliding out to deliver the stone.
"We've never played in a crowd this loud before," said Canadian lead Dawn McEwen. "They do (cheer) way more than normal, but I think it's great, it's a really cool atmosphere out there."
The curlers struggled to be heard, but it helped that the Canadians were prepared for the crazy atmosphere.
"I don't know that they're a curling-knowledgeable crowd, and I think we saw that in Vancouver (at the Olympics) as well, so it's not really a big surprise," said Canada's second Jill Officer. "I think it's just great that people are out here watching the game and watching our sport.
"Whatever we get when we actually go to play Russia (on Saturday), we'll be prepared for it."
Russia's 22-year-old skip Sidorova was an Internet sensation well before the Olympics even opened, thanks to some racy photos of the brunette — posed in a curling position — in a black teddy, thigh high stockings, and heels.
And while the Russian crowd couldn't get enough of Sidorova, Canada had its own wacky fans earlier in the day for Brad Jacobs' 11-8 win over Germany. A group of Canadian fans wore curling rocks for hats, adorned with the slogan "Team Canada Rocks." A woman held a sign that read "Team Canada Has 'Real' Stones."
Jones and her team built a 3-0 advantage and then opened the gap by drawing for three in the fifth end to give Canada a 6-1 lead. Canada drew for three more before Bingyu Wang conceded in the seventh end.
"We're pretty proud of that start," Jones said. "It's our first Olympics and we came out and played really well from the first end on against a great team."
The 39-year-old, who is gunning for Canada's first women's Olympic gold since the late Sandra Schmirler's team won the title in 1998, admitted to being emotional when she and her teammates walked out to curling's traditional bagpipe band.
"When you say it now, it makes me emotional," Jones said. "It lived up to our expectations and then some. To be piped out and to see the Olympic rings and you get to slide over the rings, it was unbelievable.
"But from the moment practice started and we shook hands and the game was going, it felt like just a big event for us, which is exactly what we wanted to feel. Just with a bunch of loud people cheering for Russia."
Jones and McEwen both have their significant others in Sochi. McEwen's husband Mike — skip of Winnipeg's men's team at the Sochi Olympic trials — and Jones' partner Brent Laing, a two-time Brier and world champion with skip Glenn Howard, were seated in the front row of the rink.
"I told him that was the one rule: you have to text me when you get home so I know you're back in the hotel safe and sound," McEwen said.
"So far so good. We'll see how long that lasts for," she added laughing.
Jones and Laing left their 14-month-old daughter back in Ontario with Laing's mom. But Jones said she keeps her daughter close in the necklace she wears that reads: "Isabella."
"I'm trying to keep notes every day of things that I think about when I think about her, and just special moments so when she's old enough to understand I can tell her that she was a huge part of this for me," Jones said.
The Canadians, who next face Sweden on Tuesday afternoon, had been expecting a tough test against the Canadian-coached Chinese team, the 2009 world champion and 2010 Olympic bronze medallist.
"They kind of were on the wrong side of the inch today, and we played well," Jones said of their opponents who are coached by Marcel Rocque, a three-time world champions as lead for Edmonton's Randy Ferbey.
"I expect though that they'll bounce back and will be contenders for the playoffs."
Elsewhere in the women's draw, Sweden beat rival Britain 6-4 in a tense, strategic opening game between two favourites for the title.
Switzerland beat the United States 7-4.
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