Jones team right where it belongs

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

PAISLEY, Scotland -- Somehow, Jennifer Jones always knew it would come to this.

Even in her darkest curling hour, when a bureaucratic decision robbed her of a chance to compete for her country, Jones always believed she would one day get a chance to wear the Maple Leaf.

That chance will come tomorrow when her St. Vital foursome of Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Cathy Gauthier begins Canada's defence of the world women's curling championship here at the Lagoon Leisure Centre.

"In my heart I knew I'd come to the worlds some day," Jones said.

"It was a disappointment that we didn't get to go the last time, but it's an absolute thrill to finally compete for your country."

Back in 1994, Jones was the skip and Officer the second on a Manitoba foursome that won the Canadian junior women's championship.

The custom at the time was for the Canadian Curling Association to send the previous year's champion to the worlds, but they changed that in 1995, when Jones would have been Canada's representative. That year the CCA decided to henceforth send the current year's champion.

So, the foursome was placed in the 1995 Canadian semifinal, where they lost to fellow Winnipegger Kelly McKenzie (now Kelly Scott). The McKenzie foursome went on to win the world title, while the Jones team was left to think about the missed opportunity for a decade.

"It was unfortunate that we weren't able to play in a world championship when we won in 1994," said Officer. "But it wasn't until we won the Scott that it really hit me that we have never played in a world championship. Of course, I've thought a lot more about it since we won the Scott than I ever did before."

The Jones foursome will obviously be one of the favourites to win the world championship -- Canada has won 13 of the 25 world women's titles that have been handed out (as well as five silver medals and five bronze), including a victory by Colleen Jones last year -- and the Manitoba curlers recognize that they are carrying a weight on their backs.

"There's always pressure in representing your country," said Jones, who proved she can handle pressure pretty well when she made her brilliant in-off shot to win the Canadian championship.

"You are so honoured to do it and you just want to do it well. We are so incredibly proud to be doing it."

The Canadians, having come through a tough field at the Scott Tournament of Hearts only three weeks ago, should have the upper hand on a field that doesn't have the luxury of playing high-level games throughout the year.

However, there will be plenty of challenges for the Canadians, including two-time world champion Dordi Nordby of Norway, Anette Norberg of Sweden, Olympian Mirjam Ott of Switzerland and up-and-comer Cassie Johnson of the United States.

"I have played Dordi Nordby before ... who hasn't?" said Overton-Clapham, who played third for Connie Laliberte at the 1995 worlds and won a silver medal. "And also Anette Norberg and Mirjam Ott are very strong. I would think Norway, Sweden, Scotland (Kelly Wood), USA and Switzerland are the best. Can't say I know much about the rest of them, but the field is going to be tough."

The rest of them include teams from Russia (Olga Zharkova), Japan (Ayumi Onodera), China (Bingyu Wang), Denmark (Madeleine Dupont), Finland (Kirsi Nykanen) and Italy (Diana Gaspari).

No matter what those teams bring to the table, Jones plans to play the game the same way she did in St. John's, where she junked up the house with rocks and beat her opponents with the finesse shots.

"We do what we do," Jones said "We will play the same type of game that we always play.

"(Overton-Clapham) says the ice is going to be straight and fast. It could change our game plan but we'll worry about that when we get out there. Hopefully there will be some movement."

For Overton-Clapham and Gauthier this championship presents a great opportunity for redemption.

Both have been stinging for 10 years now since they lost the world final in Brandon to Elisabet Gustafson of Sweden when Laliberte missed her last shot.

"Having been to the worlds and losing the final back in 1995 was a very big disappointment because we were the best team there," Overton-Clapham said. "I am very excited that both Cathy (Gauthier) and I have another shot at being world champions. And of course Jill and Jen got a little ripped off when they won the Canadian junior. So they are ready."

There's no doubt about that.

"Every time I see a Canadian flag these days, I take a second look at it and think 'We're going to be putting that on our backs because that's what we now represent,'" Officer said. "A friend gave each of us a big Canadian flag when we won (the Scott) I just took it out of the package the other day. I got so excited I started jumping again."

Since they won the Scott -- in spectacular fashion -- the Jones foursome has been the toast of the town in Winnipeg. That instant celebrity status has helped the team keep its edge for the world championship.

"Can't say we have come down from the high of St. John's yet," Overton-Clapham said. "We have been so busy, but a great busy. Everything has been so overwhelming and exciting. I know once we get on the ice we will have one thing on our minds and that is to bring home the gold. We have no doubt in our minds that we will win."

---

A quick look at the team from St. Vital which will represent Canada at the women's world curling championship starting tomorrow in Paisley, Scotland:

SKIP: JENNIFER JONES

AGE: 30

BIRTHPLACE: Winnipeg

FAMILY: Husband, Scott

OCCUPATION: Lawyer

YEARS CURLED: 19

CURLING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1991, 1993, 1994 provincial junior champion; 1994 Canadian junior champion; 2002, 2005 provincial women's champion; 2005 Canadian women's champion.

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Golf

THIRD: CATHY OVERTON-CLAPHAM

AGE: 35

BIRTHPLACE: Winnipeg

FAMILY: Husband, Mike; children, Andrew 6, Mackenzie 2.

OCCUPATION: Mom

YEARS CURLED: 23

CURLING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1986, 1989 provincial junior champion; 1989 Canadian junior champion; 1991, 1995,1999, 2000, 2005 provincial women's champion; 1995, 2005 Canadian women's champion.

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Family

SECOND: JILL OFFICER

AGE: 29

BIRTHPLACE: Winnipeg

FAMILY: Single

OCCUPATION: Communications manager for the City of Brandon

YEARS CURLED: 19

CURLING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1993, 1994 provincial junior champion; 1994 Canadian junior champion; 1996, 2004 provincial mixed champion; 2005 provincial women's champion; 2005 Canadian women's champion.

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Volleyball, golf.

LEAD: CATHY GAUTHIER

AGE: 43

BIRTHPLACE: Winnipeg

FAMILY: Children Gaetanne, 8, Jacques, 6

OCCUPATION: Manager of executive services at Agriculture Canada

YEARS CURLED: 29

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1992, 1993, 1995, 2005 provincial women's champion; 1992, 1995, 2005 Canadian women's champion; Member of Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Golf, soccer, family

COACH: LARRY JONES

FIFTH PLAYER: TRISHA ECK


Videos

Photos