EDMONTON — Four years after she couldn’t get to the playoff round at the Canadian Olympic curling trials and missed her chance to compete in the Turin Games, Jennifer Jones again fell short and saw her dreams of winning an Olympic medal on home soil slide away.
Jones, the woman who’s dominated Canadian curling in recent years and came to Edmonton this week a favourite to earn the right to represent her country at the 2010 Olympics, ended the trials Thursday just as she began them — with a whimper.
In her final match, which was rendered almost meaningless because of the losses that came before it, Jones was on the wrong end of a 10-9 decision to the woman who won the 2005 Canadian trials and went on to an Olympic bronze medal, Shannon Kleibrink.
A 2-5 record and a tie for sixth place in the standings in an eight-team field is not what Jones, a three-time winner of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, expected heading into the week.
“You’ve worked three years for this and we came out and things just didn’t go our way,” a sombre Jones said after her final loss. “Yeah I want to go to the Olympics, and so I think does every Canadian, but you can’t sometimes make things happen.”
Jones’ inability to get beyond the round robin portion of the tournament was made all the more striking by the fact that more than half the rinks are still alive heading into Friday.
Cheryl Bernard clinched first place by storming out to a 6-0 start and is guaranteed a spot in the tournament final, one win away from the Vancouver Olympics.
Calgary’s Kleibrink finished second in the round robin standings with a mark of 5-2. Amber Holland, Stefanie Lawton, and Krista McCarville will all take to the ice Friday as part of a tiebreaker for the final playoff spot after finishing with records of 4-3.
Jones had no shortage of opportunities to join them.
She started the round-robin tournament with back-to-back losses to Holland, of Kronau, Sask., and McCarville, of Thunder Bay, Ont.
She seemed to right the ship in Draw 3, knocking off Kelowna, B.C., curler and former world champion Kelly Scott. Jones followed that up with a win over Calgary’s Crystal Webster to even her record at 2-2.
But her fortunes once again turned for the worse. Jones fell behind early to Saskatoon’s Lawton in Draw 5 and never recovered, dropping a 6-4 decision while shooting just 75 per cent. She shot 89 and 91 per cent respectively in draws three and four.
One round later, against Calgary’s Bernard, Jones missed a draw in the fourth end that allowed her opponent to score four. A few ends later, she missed a draw that would have tied the game, sending her hammer straight through the house to the surprise of herself and those in attendance.
“We had one bad end every game we lost and unfortunately it cost us,” Jones said Thursday, after a match in which she allowed Kleibrink to score four in the sixth end.
Among skips, Jones ranked seventh in the tournament with a shot percentage of 76. Only Scott, who finished last with a 1-6 record, finished lower.
Jones didn’t get much help from her third, Cathy Overton-Clapham, who was seventh at her position, also with a percentage of 76.
The rink as a whole finished tied for third overall in shot percentage with 80, due to strong performances from lead Dawn Askin and second Jill Officer.
Even some of the opponents who squared off against Jones’ rink throughout the week were surprised not to see them advance to the playoffs.
“Obviously, she was the number one seed so she was predicted to at least be in the playoffs, so it’s shocking,” said McCarville. “It depends what kind of week you have, really. You don’t have a great week and all these teams are strong.”
McCarville, who saved herself from elimination with a 6-4 win over Webster Thursday, will take on Lawton in the first tiebreaker. The winner will then play Holland, who advanced to the tiebreaker final due to her performance rankings throughout the week.
The winner of the tiebreaker final will face Kleibrink for a chance to meet Bernard in the final Saturday night.
Of the three rinks that clinched the tiebreaker, none played a more dramatic game Thursday than Lawton.
Lawton was down 5-4 to the previously unbeaten Bernard heading into the 10th end but was able to hit and stick to score two, raising her arms in victory as 9,295 in attendance at Rexall Place cheered on.
“I kind of let my teammates down throughout the game a little bit,” Lawton said, speaking of a couple of missed opportunities to score two.
“We hung in there and we put ourselves in a good position and it came down to the last shot and the girls communicated it very well.”
Lawton said it gives her a little bit extra of a confidence boost to have done something no one else could — knock off Bernard.
For her part, Bernard took the loss in stride. She had already clinched first place in the tournament and the match against Lawton carried little incentive.
“I don’t know if we played with as much intensity and Lawton’s team played with a lot of intensity that game,” she said.
The road out of the round robin portion of the tournament was especially long for Holland, who started the trials by losing three of her first four matches and seemed more likely to end up in the basement than with a playoff spot.
“Well, we knew how to get back into it, we just had to play better,” said Holland.
“I think it goes through your mind that you’re struggling, things aren’t going well, but we knew we could play better and that’s all we had to do. We knew the wins would take care of themselves if we could do that and we did.”
Webster finished the tournament with a record of 2-5.