Three-peat in sight

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Paint a pair of targets alongside that Maple Leaf logo on her back.

Team Canada's Jennifer Jones has put one of her team's poorest performances ever behind her and is now taking dead aim at winning her third consecutive Canadian crown when the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts starts in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Saturday.

Only two teams have ever won at least three straight national women's titles -- Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones, who won four (2001-04) and Saskatchewan's Vera Pezer, who was the first to turn the trick back in 1971-73.

"Obviously, winning a Canadian championship is a thrill of a lifetime no matter when you win, or how many," said Jones, who failed to even qualify for the playoffs at the Canadian Curling Trials in Edmonton last month. "The trials is the trials and it's over, and you can't look at the past -- you can only look at the future."

But it is tough enough to win back-to-back Canuck titles, never mind back-to-back-to-back.

"I wouldn't say it's almost impossible," said Canada second Jill Officer. "Obviously, it's been done. But it would certainly make a mark in the books. So, that would be great.

"The Scotties are a great event and we always had the Scotties to look forward to, regardless of what happened in Edmonton."

It would also be the fourth Canadian women's championship for Jones -- which would be a Manitoba team record -- and the fifth for third Cathy Overton-Clapham (who currently holds the provincial record for individuals).

"Wouldn't that be fun to be in the record book?" said Overton-Clapham, who is making her 11th appearance at the national championship. "It would mean a lot. We worked really hard this year to try to go to the Olympics and obviously, that didn't happen. We spent a lot of time together and enjoy each other's company so, it's going to be exciting for all of us."

Ah, the Olympics. Jones had been the most dominant women's squad in Canada for the past two seasons but failed miserably to ride that success into the 2010 Winter Olympics. But they spent no time poring over films, conducting bull sessions or holding all-days sessions with shrinks.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed in Edmonton," Officer said. "Obviously, it didn't go our way and there's no denying that. But curling's curling and we're still alive, and our lives will go on. We enjoyed our family time and our Christmas holidays, and we're back on the ice and we're feeling good.

"We felt like we were ready and we were prepared, and it just didn't happen. It just may be one of those things that we will never be able to pinpoint ... It just wasn't meant to be for us."

But Jones rebounded by winning a cashspiel in Bern, Switzerland. Ironically, that spiel featured most of the teams bound for the Olympics.

"It was nice to come back and kind of rebound from the trials, and curl well and get to play some Olympic teams," said lead Dawn Askin, who could not help wondering why that scene could not have unfolded in Vancouver as originally hoped.

But, instead of winning a gold medal, they pocketed some loose change (about $6,000).

"Unfortunately, that's (Olympics) not going to happen," Officer said. "We're just going to move forward. Things happen for a reason and we'll just take what we can from our experience and move forward to the Scotties."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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