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Jennifer Jones jumped for joy, her arms and broom triumphantly in the air. And why not?
The Winnipeg skip, wearing gold eye shadow, swept into the Olympic gold medal curling game with a string of late, big-money shots Wednesday to edge Britain 6-4 and improve her record at the Ice Cube Curling Center to 10-0.
Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen stepped up when it mattered to dispose of 2013 world champion Eve Muirhead in an edge-of-your-seat Olympic semi-final.
“I’m so proud of us,” said a jubilant Jones. “I thought we came out and played lights out today.”
Now only Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson stands in the way of the Jones juggernaut, which is assured of at least silver.
“It’s crazy to think that we’re going to be on that podium, I’m not going to lie,” said a smiling Jones, who clapped her hands in celebration as she arrived to talk to reporters.
“It was an emotional win. We’ve dreamed of this since we were little girls ... We’re going to be on that podium no matter what. Nobody can ever take that away from us. It’s pretty exciting and something we’re going to celebrate, but right now we’re focused on trying to play well (Thursday).”
Jones scored a key long double-takeout with her first stone of the eighth end, just nudging the second British rock out of the rings to clear the house. It proved to be a turning point.
“She had a tough one there and she nailed it,” said Lawes.
And, with the game on the line in the 10th, Jones drew to the four-foot against three British counters to secure the win.
“The girls swept it perfectly,” said the Winnipeg skip. “In the biggest moment under the most pressure, we made a really finesse shot to win the game.”
“A great shot to win,” said British coach David Hay. “She was facing a situation of losing the game if she doesn’t draw to the button.”
Jones’ teammates expected nothing less.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else throwing that last rock,” said Lawes. “She’s an amazing person and an amazing skip. She’s so talented.”
“I’ve seen her make a lot of big shots in a lot of big circumstances,” said Officer, who has curled with Jones for 20 years.
Sweden (7-2 in the round-robin) earned a 7-5 decision over Switzerland (5-4) in the other semifinal. Sigfridsson throws second stones but calls the shots as skip.
“We’ve played them lots before. They’re a great team,” said Jones. “They’re pretty aggressive so I expect there to be lots of rocks in play. Similar to today, I think it’s going to come down to last rock and we just really hope we have it.”
The 39-year-old Jones curled 89 per cent to Muirhead’s 84 in a game that saw Canada up 3-0 after two ends to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.
Officer, who had some rough early moments, and Lawes also raised their game late to push back a stubborn British team. And Jones closed the door.
“We expected it to come down to last rock,” said Officer. “But I thought we made big shots when we needed to.”
Canada has not won a women’s curling gold at the Games since the late Sandra Schmirler did it in 1998 in Nagano.
Jones, a four-time Canadian champion and 2008 world champion, has had to wait for her Olympic experience.
She failed to secure an Olympic berth in both 2006 and 2010. Shannon Kleibrink won bronze in 2006 in Turin while Cheryl Bernard earned silver four years ago in Vancouver.
Jones’ rink defeated South Korea 9-4 Monday to improve to 9-0 and become the first women’s team to go through an Olympic round-robin campaign undefeated.
Canada’s Kevin Martin, who did it four years ago in Vancouver, is the only other curler to go through the preliminary round undefeated.
The Jones team has left nothing to chance, fine-tuning its game in the months ahead of Sochi. They came to the Games with smiles on their faces and they have never left.
“It so hard to get here out of Canada,” said Jones. “It’s so hard. There are so many great teams and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“So the biggest regret I would have, when we all talked about it, is if we left here and we didn’t have any moments that we could remember with joy. So every day we’ve got at least five moments that we can remember with joy. The curling aside, we’ve had an amazing time and then it’s just brought so many great performances out on the ice.
“Because we’ve just soaked it up and we’ve been focused and nothing really rattles us. We just go and we’re determined and having fun. We’re just there for each other. It’s great.”
It’s a rink that genuinely enjoys each other’s company and has each other’s back.
Jones, meanwhile, has faced just about everything there is to stare down in curling. She relishes having the hammer on the sport’s biggest stage. Her walk-off, in-off to score four and win the 2005 Canadian women’s championship is a staple of television curling highlights.
“It’s what sport is all about,” she said. “If you don’t get that adrenaline rush and it’s a guarantee, then why play? But that’s what you train for. I’ve had to make a lot of big shots to win games before, so you know what that feeling’s all about and you just embrace it.
“But I let it go and I knew it was close. And that’s a great feeling. And the girls have just judged perfectly all week. So it was amazing. It was one of the most excited I’ve ever been to win a game.”
Jones wore the gold eye shadow at Canada’s opening news conference at the Games but admitted she did so by mistake. She applied her makeup in dim light because it was early and her teammates were asleep.
The 23-year-old Muirhead skipped Scotland to the 2013 world championship, becoming only the second Scottish women’s team to win a world crown. Muirhead’s rink beat Canada’s Rachel Homan in the semifinals.
It was an entertaining game, full of strategy with both skips facing some challenging shots.
Victimized by a pick — “there was a big black hair on the ice,” said McEwen — Muirhead missed the lone Canadian rock in the house with her first throw of the first end, allowing Jones to take advantage and score two.
Canada stole one in the second. Jones was able to twice draw the button already lying one. Muirhead removed only one of the Canadian rocks with her last throw.
Britain got on the board in the third with a deuce after a hit-and-stick from Muirhead. Canada hit and stayed for a single in the fourth for a 4-2 lead.
Jones limited Muirhead to a single in the fifth, before drawing the button in the sixth for a single and a 5-3 lead.
The teams blanked the seventh.
After her double takeout in the eighth that followed an Officer miss, Jones hit and stayed to lie one. Muirhead peeled it to blank the end and retain the hammer.
In the ninth, Lawes helped the Canadian cause with a nifty double takeout. Jones hit to lie two and forced Muirhead to draw for the single and yield the hammer, trailing 5-4.
It was Officer’s turn to step up in the 10th. The Canadian second’s raise double took some steam out of Britain’s offence.
Muirhead still tried to get rocks into the house, to get something going. Jones put her first rock in the house to lie two, piling the pressure on the young British skip with her last rock.
Muirhead was up to the task, removing both Canadian rocks, leaving three British stones closer than the lone Canadian stone.
That left Jones with a draw to the button for at least a silver medal. She stepped up and nailed it.
Britain emerged from the round robin with a 5-4 record that included a 9-6 loss to Jones a week ago. But, as skip of a different Scotland team, Muirhead beat the Canadian 10-4 in the 2010 world championship semifinal
Muirhead won three world junior championships before skipping Britain at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Just 19, she failed to get out of the group stage.
Her father Gordon was twice runner-up at the world championships and finished fifth at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville. Older brother Glen has curled for Scotland and younger brother Thomas represented Britain at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck.
Muirhead, who took up curling at nine, is a scratch golfer and plays the bagpipes.
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