Jones Manitoba’s greatest athlete
Curling legend who has won it all still at the top of her game
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Jennifer Jones has already proven herself to be the greatest curler in Manitoba’s storied history. Her latest provincial championship last week only added to her lore, and the 48-year-old Winnipegger is now preparing to skip a team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for an absurd 17th time in her decorated career.
As much as melting snow, robins and massive potholes have all become signs of impending spring around here, so, too, has the sight of Jones in the hack throwing high-pressure shots on the biggest stages.
Which leads me to the following question: Is Jones also the greatest athlete our province has ever produced, regardless of sport?
Her resume is as impressive as they come. Sixteen Grand Slam victories (most by any female skip). Nine provincial triumphs (a record). Six national championships (tied for most all-time). Two World titles. An Olympic gold medal. And based on what we just saw earlier this month, there are no signs of slowing down.
Any questions about how Jones might mesh with new, much younger and inexperienced teammates Karlee Burgess and sisters Mackenzie and Emily Zacharias were quickly answered as they ran the table, going a perfect 9-0 in the process. They are a force to be reckoned with, both in the present and for the foreseeable future.
Although she often makes it look easy, there’s nothing simplistic about what Jones has accomplished. Simply getting out of the curling hotbed that is Manitoba is difficult enough. This isn’t the case of being the best of a bad lot. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Worldwide competition is also tougher than ever, with the sport exploding in popularity around the globe. Ironically, it’s people like Jones who are at least partially responsible for that. A good problem to have, for sure, but no small point when considering the overall value of everything Jones has done to date.
We hear the term G.O.A.T tossed around often in the sports world — that’s short for greatest of all time — and a valid case can be made that Jones fits the bill around these parts.
There’s no shortage of quality candidates to consider. Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen are Olympic legends and would absolutely be in the conversation. Hughes is the only athlete in the world to win multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Games, and her six overall medals are tied with Klassen for the title of Canada’s all-time most-decorated Olympian.
Bobby Clarke, Terry Sawchuk, Ed Belfour, Jennifer Botterill and Jonathan Toews stand out in a province that has produced countless hockey stars.
Corey Koskie (baseball), Israel Idonije (football), Donny Lalonde (boxing), Todd MacCulloch (basketball) and George Knudson (golf) all beat long odds to make it to the highest levels in their industries, going where very few Manitobans typically go. There’s also the likes of Andrew Harris, Desiree Scott, Jeff Stoughton and Susan Auch who would garner some votes.
I love a good, spirited debate. And there’s no question that scribbling here in the sports section provides plenty of fodder in that department. So, yeah, I’m stirring the pot a bit today. Jones’ unmatched success and staying power — she won her first of three provincial junior titles way back in 1991 and has been kicking butt and taking names ever since — puts her at, or at least near, the top of my list.
That she’s done all this while becoming an accomplished lawyer, public speaker and mother of two is simply sensational. She’s also been a mentor to countless curlers who were inspired by her, with many in the sport (including her current teammates) rightfully looking up to her as a role model.
Some have tried to suggest her achievements are muted by the fact she no longer lives full-time in Manitoba, but rather near Barrie, Ont., with her husband and children. (Curling Canada changed its residency policy in 2015 to allow one team member to live out-of-province). That’s just silly.
Jones is still as Manitoban as they come, her love for the sport first taking root at the St. Vital Curling Club at a young age. And she’s been making this province proud ever since.
Next up is a chance at more history. Jones can become the first-ever seven-time winner if she can emerge from the 18-team field at the Scotties, which begins Feb. 17 in Kamloops, B.C. Her competition will include three other Manitoba squads — did I mention we’re pretty good on the pebble around here? — in defending champ Kerri Einarson (Canada), former teammate Kaitlyn Lawes (Wild Card 1) and Meghan Walter, who has taken over skip duties from Abby Ackland (Wild Card 3).
Jones has nothing more to prove. She could never win another game and her accomplishments would still stand above all her peers. It’s clear the fire still burns, and winning very much remains a part of her DNA. Bet against her at your own peril.
Another trophy case or two in her household might be required by the time she hangs up her broom. Which, for the sake all of those who love the game and the sport itself, is hopefully not happening anytime soon. All good things do eventually come to an end. Greatness lives forever.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Monday, February 6, 2023 10:24 PM CST: Corrects typo in cutline