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Curlers ready to rock

Manitoba contingent prepared to go for the gold

Posted: 02/7/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Canadian curlers (from left) Jill Officer, Jennifer Jones, Dawn Askin, Kaitlyn Lawes and Kirsten Wall take a tour of Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, Thursday.

ROBERT F. BUKATY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Canadian curlers (from left) Jill Officer, Jennifer Jones, Dawn Askin, Kaitlyn Lawes and Kirsten Wall take a tour of Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, Thursday.

SOCHI -- Ryan Fry and Jennifer Jones were high-fiving one another on the dais at a Team Canada press conference here in Sochi while Jill Officer was explaining what it's like to go to the Olympics with your best friend. A few feet over, Kaitlyn Lawes was talking about the goosebumps she gets when she thinks about where she is. Beside her, Dawn McEwen was doing an interview with a passel of international journalists.

In other words, just another day at Camp Manitoba here in Russia on the coast of the Black Sea.

It will be all Manitoba all the time once curling action gets underway Monday with Winnipeg-born Fry bringing some Bison to Brad Jacob's Ontario-based men's team and three of the Jones regulars born in Manitoba and four calling themselves Winnipeggers.

Spirits were high and smiles aplenty as these people born and in many cases reared to slide on the pebbled ice sheets of our province prepare to try and capture Olympic gold medals in Manitoba's treasured game of curling.

'I'm so thrilled to be here. I've had the opportunity to meet most of the Canadian athletes in the village and I can honestly say I don't think any of us have been able to wipe the smiles off our faces'

-- Jennifer Jones

"Sometimes I can't believe we're here. Fortunately at the Olympics they put those huge statues of the five rings to remind you where you are," said Officer. "This is just so amazing."

Jones had a smile on her face that likely won't get knocked off until she throws her first miss.

The Olympic rookie met with the media twice on Thursday, first at the Canadian Olympic Committee's (COC) opening press conference and later at the curling event, and she delivered with a mega-watt smile, fresh enthusiasm and a little touch of gold mascara.

"No, that's not on purpose," smiled Jones, when asked about the golden hue of eye-shadow she chose for this moment. "The rest of the girls were still asleep when I got up so I got dressed in the dark. But maybe it's fore-shadowing."

Jones was introduced with a panel that included COC president Marcel Aubut and chef de mission Steve Podborski.

"I'm so thrilled to be here," said Jones. "I've had the opportunity to meet most of the Canadian athletes in the village and I can honestly say I don't think any of us have been able to wipe the smiles off our faces. It's been an incredible 36 hours since we arrived and it just keeps getting better."

While there's been lots of talk out of Sochi about the lack of readiness of these Games, Jones says she's seen no sign of that.

"Our accommodations are spectacular. It's more than we could have asked for. The food in the cafeteria has been great. We can walk to our venue. I can look at the curling rink from my bedroom. It's incredible," said Jones. "We can't stop smiling. We're all so excited to be representing Canada. To be here as the greater Team Canada, and to be in Sochi and the beauty of the mountains and waking up every morning to look at the Black Sea, it's incredible. I can't stop saying the words amazing and incredible."

For the Jones team, the opportunity to open their team bags on Wednesday was a special moment.

"We got our clothing from HBC and for us girls it was like Christmas morning," said Jones. "The only thing I know is we are so excited to compete for Canada. The greater team is ready. We're ready to deliver and we can't wait for the competition to start."

Lawes was able to switch back and forth from wide-eyed awe to all-business.

"Am I excited to walk in the opening ceremonies? Of course. But I'm more excited to compete and try to win a medal," said Lawes. "Being here and taking part in all of this, just thinking about it now gives me goosebumps. But we're here for a reason. I can't wait to compete."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2014 C7

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