EDMONTON — Jennifer Jones’ Olympic dreams might well be over.
Jones, the defending national women’s champion, came to the Olympic curling trials in Edmonton as a heavy favourite to represent Canada at the 2010 Winter Games.
From program guides handed out to Rexall Place visitors, to television trailers surrounding the arena, Jones’ likeness has been splashed everywhere, with her win at the trials seemingly a foregone conclusion for many.
But for the third time in five round-robin matches, Jones was on the losing end Wednesday, dropping a 6-4 decision to Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton.
Jones’ 2-3 record at the tournament puts her in a tie for fifth place heading into Wednesday’s evening draw. Three teams are tied for second place.
Speaking with reporters after the loss, the Winnipeg curler said Wednesday morning’s result was a true disappointment.
“I think we’ll need some help but stranger things have happened,” she said, leaving open the slim possibility that the stars will align in such a manner that her rink makes the playoffs.
Eight women’s teams began play in the tournament, dubbed the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials, presented by Monsanto, on Sunday. The first-place team at the end of the round robin will advance directly to the final match, while the second- and third-place teams will meet in the semifinal.
The tournament champion will represent Canada at the 2010 Olympics.
Making matters even worse for Jones is the fact that her final two round-robin matches will be against Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard, who has yet to lose at the curling trials, and Shannon Kleibrink, who won the bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Games.
“At the end of the day we’ll have no regrets,” Jones said. “Hopefully it turns our way and if it doesn’t it was just not meant to be.”
While Jones’ rink continued to struggle Wednesday, Bernard continued her string of tenth end magic.
Bernard stole the show on the first day of the tournament with a five-point double takeout in the final end against Ontario’s Krista McCarville. One draw later, she picked up another nail-biting win against Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland with a shot so close it had to be measured three times.
Tuesday, the 43-year-old skip took another contest in the tenth end by picking up four points against B.C.’s Kelly Scott after entering the frame down by two.
Wednesday, Bernard appeared to be in trouble down 4-3 to Kleibrink in the eighth end but she pushed the score to 5-5 heading to the tenth.
There, she took advantage of the hammer and scored three, putting the 6,738 people in attendance in a frenzy while improving her record to 5-0 at the trials.
With one more round-robin win, Bernard can clinch a spot in the tournament final.
“It’s a good position to be in,” Bernard said after the win.
“(Kleibrink’s rink) made some great shots and we started to play good after the halfway mark, which put some pressure on them and that’s what we had to do. I was really proud of the way we came back with that game.”
With the loss, Kleibrink dropped into a tie with McCarville and Lawton for second place. Holland and Jones are tied for fifth, while Scott and Calgary’s Crystal Webster are tied for seventh at 1-4.
Kleibrink told reporters after the loss her rink was disappointed to let a lead slip away late.
“Eight, nine and ten. I didn’t draw very much in the early part of the game and then as soon as I did I got caught because it was way cleaner than it has been and I threw a couple in the back of the house,” she said.
“We’re still in the middle of the pack. It’s not an opportunity lost. We have to go forward and make sure we use what we learned.”