ST. JOHN'S -- As the fans cheered and cheered, Colleen Jones crouched behind the scoreboard and buried her face in her hands, covering the tears that betrayed her emotions. Nobody expected Jones' incredible run of four straight Canadian women's curling championships to end the way it did yesterday morning.
But it came to a shocking halt at the Scott Tournament of Hearts at the hands of an unlikely opponent, New Brunswick's Sandy Comeau, who made a great shot to score four in the ninth during a tiebreaker.
Jones, with six Canadian championships and two world titles on her incredible resume, extended a hand to concede to Comeau, The Giant Slayer who had just put an end to a wonderful run of success.
While the crowd at Mile One Stadium stood and cheered after Comeau's 9-4 win, three sheets over, in a tight tiebreaker between Kanata's Jenn Hanna and Alberta's Cathy King, the players dropped their brooms and applauded.
"I almost cried, to be honest with you," said Hanna. "Colleen is a legend, a total legend. I get choked up just talking about it."
It was an incredible moment for a deserving champion. A moment that will never be lost by anybody who witnessed the outpouring of emotion.
Jones wasn't aware of what had happened on the other sheet.
"That was nice," she said when told of the gesture by the players in the other tiebreaker.
Then she began to cry.
"I just wanted it to be done. It was just so sad it was over, really," she said.
"And it was hard to kind of acknowledge that the crowd was acknowledging what we did because I was so busy ... just so crushed that it was over."
And so begins the praise for Jones and her teammates Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Arsenault and Nancy Delahunt, who have received precious little recognition during their reign as curling queens.
Curling fans have criticized Jones for all sorts of trivial matters, everything from her gum-chomping to the fact they wear skirts during competition when most other women's teams go with pants.
But when you take all that out of the equation and focus on the sport alone, nobody can deny Jones and her teammates their due as one of the greatest teams in curling history.
"Those four women are role models, I think, to all women athletes out there," said CBC curling analyst Joan McCusker, winner of the 1998 Olympic gold medal and three world titles with Sandra Schmirler.
That's high praise coming from a member of the team many curling fans consider to be the greatest women's team to rule the sheets.
A fan shouted to Jones as she walked toward her locker room after the game that she'll be a great representative for this country at next year's Olympics.
Her four-year reign as national champ is over. But she has a spot in the national Olympic trials that will be played in her home town of Halifax in December.
Don't be surprised if we see Jones chomping on gum in Italy next winter, adding another chapter to her brilliant curling legacy.