Jennifer Jones was surprised twice at Wednesday’s Canadian Olympic curling trials.
First, the veteran Winnipeg skip watched as defending Canadian champion Rachel Homan’s last rock draw attempt was heavy, giving Jones a steal in the 10th end and 7-6 victory.
The win put the four-time Canadian champion in sole possession of first place with a 5-1 record.
What Jones didn’t know was the win also gave her a bye into Saturday night’s final, where the winner will represent Canada at next year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Are we? Are we in the final?” Jones asked after a reporter told her she was a game away from the Olympics.
When the answer was yes, the usually cool skip was thrilled.
“Oh, I had no idea. Yah. That’s awesome,” Jones said, clapping her hands.
Jones, who’s making her third attempt at playing in an Olympics, is supported by third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer, lead Dawn McEwen and alternate Kirsten Wall.
Fellow Winnipegger Chelsea Carey also had the 7,343 fans at MTS Centre cheering as she grabbed second place (4-2) after defeating Val Sweeting of Edmonton 6-4.
Ottawa’s Homan, Sweeting, Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh and Heather Nodohin from Edmonton share third with 3-3 records.
Middaugh beat Renee Sonneberg 7-6, dropping the Grande Prairie, Alta., skip to 1-5.
The second- and third-place finishers will play the semifinal Friday night for the chance to face Jones.
Homan and Jones met in this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts final and it looked like Homan was going to take the Trials re-match.
Jones was leading 3-1 after the fourth end, but Homan scored three to go ahead 4-3 at the break and then stole a point in the sixth after Jones missed a double takeout.
But Jones, the 2008 world champion, bounced back in the seventh end, drawing right onto the button for two and a 5-5 tie.
With Homan leading 6-5 in the ninth and Jones with the hammer, the veteran was forced to draw for one and give Homan the hammer.
However, Homan was heavy with her shot and Jones counted the one for the victory.
“We did everything we could. We anticipated the fudge (slow ice) and it just wasn’t there,” Homan said.
“I’m really proud of my team. We had a heck of a game and we deserved that win, but that’s all right, they got away with one and we’ll get them back.”
After men’s action Wednesday, Kevin Martin needs one more win to move closer to his dream of curling in another Olympics.
The veteran Edmonton skip has been to three, winning silver in 2002 and gold in 2010.
Martin and co-leader Brad Jacobs (5-0) will face off Thursday and one of them will take sole possession of first place, with the bonus of a free ride into the men’s final Sunday.
“I really would love to get to one more Olympics and you know we have a shot at it,” Martin said after disposing of John Epping 9-5 in nine ends Wednesday.
“But we have to play really well and we have to somehow get to that final game Sunday and we’ve got a long way to go to get there.”
John Morris suffered just his second loss, dropping 8-6 to Jacobs after running out of rocks in 10. Morris made a game of it, scoring two and stealing two to tie it up going into nine.
Despite a couple of mistakes, Jacob’s foursome out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., shook it off, scored two in the ninth and showed why they’ve won five straight. And winning Thursday is just as much in their sights for the straight path to the final it offers.
“You’re already in the final,” said Jacobs. “You’ve got one more game to go and you’re in the Olympics. We know what’s on the line tomorrow and we’re up to the challenge.”
Three losses was considered a tough sell to make the playoffs but it’s becoming a big club at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
Jeff Stoughton already has three, but he didn’t add to the number with a 10-6 win over winless Kevin Koe in eight ends. Then Glenn Howard drew to the button to beat Mike McEwen 6-5.
McEwen joined Howard and Stoughton at 2-3, while Epping fell to 1-4 and Morris sits alone at 3-2.
Stoughton is a hometown favourite but knows his odds are very slim to make the playoffs. At least the tight race below the leaders leaves him some hope.
“Oh, definitely it’s a long shot,” he said.
Stoughton plays the other Winnipeg men’s rink in the trials, skipped by McEwen, in the evening draw Thursday.
“One of us is going to have three (wins) . . . Who knows, but we at least get to think that we still have a chance,” said Stoughton.