Jones good bet for gold

TED WYMAN

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

It will be a crying shame if Jennifer Jones and her Winnipeg teammates are not wearing Olympic gold medals around their necks at this time next year because they are, quite simply, the best women's curling team in the world.

How else would you describe a team that thrives on pressure and adversity and plays its absolute best when the chips are down.

They are the prize fighter who stumbles and uses the ropes but won't go down. The scrappy baseball player who fights off a dozen fastballs and finally raps out the game-winning single. The hockey goalie who lets in a few early ones but never allows the overtime winner.

Jones and her teammates, Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin, showed the nation they have flaws (losing a game to the Territories, blowing a 5-0 lead against Quebec) but also showed they'll make fewer mistakes than the other team when something is on the line.

Over the last two Canadian women's curling championships, the Jones foursome won 13 straight must-win games. That's unheard of.

Oh, and en route to back-to-back Tournament of Hearts crowns, they threw in a world championship for good measure.

They'll be favoured to win another world title later this month in Korea and odds are they'll bring home some sort of hardware.

But the real challenge will come next December when the Olympic Curling Trials are held in Edmonton.

Historically, the favourites have had middling results (see Randy Ferbey, Jeff Stoughton and Colleen Jones) at the Olympic Trials and less-heralded teams have grabbed the spotlight (see Mike Harris, Brad Gushue and Shannon Kleibrink).

So the pressure will definitely be on Jones and Co., when that all-important event gets underway.

And that will play right into their hands.

MRS. HOCKEY: About 15 years ago I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with Gordie Howe and his wife Colleen. In that hour I could see that she was Gordie's confidante, friend, advisor and the light of his life. Whoever wrote the expression "behind every good man, there's a good woman" must have had the Howes in mind.

The woman behind one of the classiest athletes of all time died yesterday and no doubt took a giant piece of Mr. Hockey with her.

BIG SWITCH: Looking forward to Thursday at the Brier when Manitoba, featuring Alberta's Kevin Park, plays Newfoundland, featuring Manitoba's Ryan Fry. The days of provincial pride meaning everything at the Brier are waning fast ... Jeff Stoughton's got a good team and fire in his belly to get another crack at making the Olympics, but if he wins the Brier this week it will be a major upset. Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard have turned men's curling into a rout over the last couple of years ... A lot of great players are staying far away from the World Baseball Classic, but today's Canada-U.S.A. game in Toronto still features some impressive talent -- like recent MVPs Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins and Justin Morneau. The only problem is Morneau can't pitch for Canada and it will be guys like Scott Richmond, Scott Diamond, Mike Johnson and Adrian Martin throwing to the likes of Rollins, Pedroia, Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter. Hope our boys have strong necks ... Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently put a gag order on all coaches and front-office employees other than himself, which got us to thinking: How great an NFL player would Terrell Owens be if he had only been gagged for his whole career? ... Wouldn't it be great if Owens signed with the Bengals to team up with Chad Ocho Cinco? They'd have to provide a second team bus just to carry the egos ... How much of a locker-room cancer do you have to be to get cut this many times despite being one of the greatest receivers in the history of the NFL? ... Sure sign of these troubling economic times: Manny Ramirez was only able to squeeze a $45-million two-year deal out of the L.A. Dodgers. Manny insisted he needed the money to feed his family and bail out The Big Three automakers ... It must be heartwarming to the millions of North Americans who have lost their jobs this past year to know that at least Manny got his money ... Not sure if Alex Rodriguez's troublesome injury is related to his previous use of steroids, but I bet he wishes today he hadn't done all that shooting from the hip.

ted.wyman@sunmedia.ca


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