'Still just Jill'

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

On Mondays, a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week, Jim Bender goes behind the sheets with Jill Officer, second for Team Canada's Jennifer Jones, who is out to defend her title at the world curling championship in Korea beginning this weekend. Officer has won three Canadian crowns and a junior national title with Jones.

The Sun: You are representing RBC (Olympians program), how did that come about?

Officer: It's a program that I've known about for a while. At a function, I met one of the co-ordinators of the program from here in Winnipeg ... Normally, you're supposed to be an Olympian to be part of the program and obviously, I'm not, at least not yet -- knock on wood. They were looking for more athletes in this region and because we won the world championships last year, they thought it would be a good fit and asked me to come in for an interview. Now, I'm on with them doing speaking engagements and making appearances and community events and talking to schools and doing anything really, and at the same time, promoting RBC.

TS: The pressure's on you to make the Olympics now then?

JO: I don't feel any pressure because I know they brought me on board without being an Olympian. So I'm not too worried about that. Hopefully, that can become part of it.

TS: When did you and Jennifer Jones first become friends?

JO: Oh gosh. When I was 15, she came up to me at the Highlander Curling Club and asked me if I wanted to curl with her. And I was blown away because she had had success already at that time and I was like, 'Wow, Jennifer Jones asked me to curl with her.' I could have said yes right away but I said I'd better talk to my parents and we talked about it and obviously the rest is history. We took a brief hiatus from each other because I went to college and moved out to Brandon and we've gotten back together and we've always had great success together.

TS: Describe the feeling you had when you first won the Canadian championship. Can you compare them?

JO: Our first two victories (2005 and 2008) were both pretty dramatic. I mean, the first one, we literally won on the best shot ever in that situation (in-off for four) so it was extremely exciting. Then the second one last year again, the skipper made a great shot to put the pressure on the other team (come-around draw) and we came out the winner. This year, I felt we kind of controlled it from the get-go and that was kind of nice. They've all been great and the fact that Jennifer and I have had so much success together means a lot to both of us in such a lengthy period of time. It means we're great friends and we get along well and we do something for each other out on the ice.

TS: Can you compare your three Canadian crowns to winning your first world championship (2008)?

JO: I don't know. Because we kind of controlled the game in the final (versus China) again last year, it's kind of a different feeling. But it's a great feeling nonetheless. People ask me all the time and I just find it so hard to describe how I feel about having won this stuff because I just feel like I'm still just Jill. I mean, I've accomplished this great thing and I've accomplished it with three great people but it's so hard to express to people how awesome it is to accomplish something that you put so much work into.

TS: You've got the RBC thing and you are a freelance writer, do you have anything else on the go right now?

JO: No.

TS: Are you going to win the worlds again?

JO: Well, I hope so. Obviously, that's what we're going there to try accomplish but we've had so much success already that we can't really complain if we don't. We're just going to go there and do our best and try to use it as further experience to our other goals.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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