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There were moments when it seemed Jennifer Jones’s deliberately-chosen golden eye shadow might turn to tears – and then to silver.
The day before, however, she had said her Winnipeg curling foursome had “fire in our eyes” as they dispatched defending world champion Britain. And, fortunately for Jones and Canada, that fire returned just in time Thursday as her rink curled to a 6-3 victory over Sweden, the defending Olympic champions.
The gold medal was Canada’s.
“It’s a dream come true,” Jones said. “A lot of hard work that’s paid off and I don’t think the magnitude of it has sunk in yet.”
A Canadian women’s team had not won gold in curling since the late Sandra Schmirler’s rink did so in Nagano in 1998, the year curling returned to the Winter Games.
It meant the Jones rink not only had the gold medal few had predicted for them, but it had set an Olympic record by going through all 11 matches of the 2014 Sochi Games tournament undefeated.
Lead Dawn McEwen, second Jill Officer, third Kaitlyn Lawes, with Jones, the skip, throwing fourth – defeated Eve Muirhead’s much-praised British rink in a tight 6-4 match Wednesday. To win that semi-final, the 39-year-old Jones had to draw to the button on the last rock of the 10th end – and she did so perfectly.
(Muirhead won’t leave Sochi empty-handed, however, as Britain secured the bronze medal with a 6-5 win over Switzerland Thursday.)
Jones’s superb shot-making continued against the Swedish rink of Margaretha Sigfridsson, though the play of two of her teammates, Lawes and Officer, was inconsistent in this all-important match, especially in the early going.
The concern was apparent from the tone in the Canadian players’ voices. They had trouble finding their weight, trouble reading the ice.
Lawes particularly struggled in the early going, at one point curling a mere 17 per cent, a disastrous number she eventually brought up to 68 per cent. At one point in the fifth end, Lawes had slammed her broom onto the ice in frustration.
Officer also had her troubles at times, once misjudging her weight and sailing right through a busy house. She recovered next shot, however, with a superb double-takeout. Even so, the Swedes went on to count two.
Swedish fourth Maria Prytz, on the other hand, curled extremely well early on, executing a perfect shot in the second end to count one when it had appeared Canada might steal an end.
Prytz attempted a difficult double takeout in the fifth end which didn’t quite work, leaving the Swedes to count two whereas they had been hoping for four. Had she made the shot, it might have meant the gold medal.
As it was, the Swedes were able to tie the match at 3-3.
The Swedes mostly laid back at this point and waited for the Canadians to make a mistake, and it seemed their plan might bear fruition.
Following two deliberately blanked ends, with Jones holding the hammer, Officer made a double-takeout in the eighth to set up the possibility of Canada counting more than one.
Jones attempted to draw and touch off a Swedish rock to count two, only to come up just short. It took a measure to determine Canada had counted one to go ahead 4-3 – but lost the hammer in the process.
Canada caught a massive break in the ninth end, however, when a Swedish stone picked, turned hard to the left and took out a guard, allowing Lawes an opening in which she could take out a Swedish counter, which she did.
The weak shot-making from early on was history.
When Swedish third Christina Bertrup drew heavy, it gave Jones, at that point counting three, an opportunity to move it to four. She drew to the edge of the button, but Prytz also drew close. Jones again drew in tight, leaving Prytz with the final attempt.
When Prytz wrecked on her own stone, it meant a steal of two for Canada and moved the score to 6-3 with one end to go. The look on Prytz’s face – crushed, shattered, broken – foretold where the gold medal would go.
As for Jones, as the 10th end got under way, her face cracked a smile for the first time in the match. She, too, knew.
The Swedes ran out of rocks in the 10th and conceded.
“Wow! We did it,” Jones said were her thoughts at that moment. “We did it. We’re gold medalists!”
Jones’s remarkable success in curling (four-time Canadian champion, 2008 world champ) is now topped off with the greatest prize of all – leaving her as one of the greats in Canada’s second-favourite game.
“Jennifer Jones is one of the greatest skips of all time,” Officer said.
“She’s the best in the world,” Lawes added.
And now has the medal to prove it.
With files from Shawna Richer and The Canadian Press