SOCHI, Russia — As Jennifer Jones crouched in the hack, cleaning the rock in advance of her last throw, she was already cracking a grin.
As the stone made its way down the ice, the smile got even broader. And when the rock reached the other end, the beaming Winnipeg skip was jumping for joy.
Olympic champion. Perfect record. Money in the bank.
Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen defeated Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson 6-3 on Thursday in a tense final decided by Canada’s steal of two in the ninth. Only then were the Canadian women able to relax and bring out the smiles that have been their Olympic trademark here.
“We’re Olympic gold medallists,” said a jubilant Jones, wearing the same gold eye shadow she favoured in Wednesday’s semifinal. “It’s something that you dream of for your entire life. It’s what every athlete wants to do and we did it today.
“And we did it in a way where we played so consistent all week. On the biggest stage for sport, we came out and played our best. And I’m so so proud of us.”
The win at the Ice Cube Curling Center improved Canada’s record at the Games to 11-0, matching Canadian skip Kevin Martin’s feat of winning the 2010 Olympic crown without a loss.
Jones, 39, has now added Olympic gold to the world championship she won in 2008 as well as four Canadian titles.
It’s Canada’s second women’s curling gold. The late Sandra Schmirler won the first in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
The performance will trigger debate of where Jones belongs in the women’s curling pantheon.
One of the greatest of all time?
“I would completely, 100 per cent agree … Probably one of the best skips to ever play the game,” said the 38-year-old Officer, who has been at Jones’ curling side for 20 years.
“Best in the world,” added the 25-year-old Lawes. “She’s an amazing, amazing talent in our sport. And as a person, she’s an amazing human being. I’ve never met anyone kinder.”
Her teammates credit Jones for motivating them and making them better curlers. They cite her determination, leadership and ability to think outside the box.
“I would never want anyone else throwing that last rock. I have 100 per cent confidence in her every single shot she throws,” said Lawes.
Tears flowed among the Canadian curlers after the win, both on the ice and at the post-event news conference. Talk of their children back home had Officer and Jones rubbing their eyes.
“I knew that leaving her behind would be hard,” an emotional Officer said of her two-year-old daughter Camryn. “But I kept thinking about her all the time and thinking about how proud she would be 10 years from now when maybe she gets it a little bit more.”
Jones, whose partner Brent Laing is a two-time Brier and world champion with skip Glenn Howard, also had to part with 15-month-old daughter Isabella to wage her Olympic campaign.
“She would see me on TV and she starts dancing and clapping,” said Jones. “And she tries to run to the TV to give me a kiss … She’s just made me want to go after everything and really show her that dreams can come true and you’ve just got to be really determined. And regardless of the outcome, just enjoy the moment. I want her to enjoy every second of her life and we’ve enjoyed every second of these Olympics regardless of the fact that we on the gold.
“But this does make it better,” she added with a giggle.
For Lawes, the mention of her late father was more than enough to tear up.
“I know he would be so proud,” she said, her voice breaking. “This is something he knew we had it in us. I don’t know how to describe it. I thought about him a lot during the game … I wish that I could share this experience with him, but he was my inspiration.”
Britain’s Eve Muirhead, the 2013 world champion, defeated Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott 6-5 for the bronze medal earlier in the day.
No Canadian women’s team has even won a world championship since Jones’ rink, without Lawes, claimed the crown in 2008. Jones beat Sigfridsson’s rink in the round-robin en route to that title.
Canada downed Sweden 9-3 on the second day of the Olympic curling competition, with the Swedes shaking hands with two ends left. Sigfridsson throws lead but calls the shots for Sweden.