SOCHI, Russia — Give her a lake. Name a curling rink after her. Change the name of a street and give her the key to the city. Jennifer Jones is an Olympic champion and she’s Winnipeg’s golden curler.
She’s not alone. Manitoba-born Jill Officer and Kaitlyn Lawes as well as adopted Winnipegger Dawn McEwen are all gold medallists too and the greatest in the world at their sport.
They move right to the top of the pantheon of Winnipeg athletes. Gold medallists. In curling. It’s quintessential Manitoba.
'I never thought we would be sitting here today when she came up to me at the High-lander Curling Club and called me over to the Coke machine and asked me if I wanted to curl with her' - Jill Officer
These gold medals enter our history and our culture. The Guess Who. The BDI. Kenny Ploen. Anders and Ulf. Teemu. Portage and Main. Cindy Klassen. Sals. Gimli. Clara Hughes. The Jets leaving. The Jets coming back. Lake Winnipeg. The Forks. Lake Manitoba. Grain.
When we ask ourselves what does Winnipeg mean to us? This golden moment will be part of the recesses of our minds. A forever memory for so many of us.
Curling is our game. It defines us in so many ways and now we can claim a special place in the sport. Our province produced a gold-medal winning team. Quite possibly the greatest team in the history of the women’s game.
Certainly Jones is in the conversation as the greatest skip in women’s curling.
Four Canadian titles, a world championship and now an Olympic gold medal, all won in the most competitive era of the sport. Today’s elite curlers train year-round and the best in the world are professionals where curling comes first. Jones isn’t competing against part-timers at the Olympics.
"She’s absolutely 100 per cent the greatest ever. I’ve thought that for a long time," said Officer. "There’s a reason I curl with Jennifer. She’s motivated me over the years, made me a better player and I owe a lot to her. She’s determined, she’s a leader."
Officer and Jones got together when they were teenagers and the two marvelled at where they stood on this day. Atop the Olympic podium.
"That’s a lot of history to talk about. I never thought we would be sitting here today when she came up to me at the Highlander Curling Club and called me over to the Coke machine and asked me if I wanted to curl with her," said Officer.
Jones grew up in front of the eyes of Manitobans. She’s represented our city and our province around the world since she was a teenager. She’s done it with grace and honour and dignity. And don’t forget excellence.
"We achieved this moment for so many people in our lives. All of our friends and families, the city of Winnipeg, all of Manitoba and Canada and that is priceless really. There’s no bigger moment or feeling in the world than that," said Jones. "I couldn’t believe it. To have all of Canada behind us, not the pressure of it but the excitement of having all those people cheering us on and people in Winnipeg cheering us on, sitting there on the edge of their seats and we did it for them too."
Little girls have had a hero in Jones to look up to in curling for a long time. She’s provided an example of how an athlete should work, commit and compete. Manitoba children getting their start in curling now have an Olympian to emulate. One can hear kids fighting over who gets to pretend to be Jones in their scrub games in curling rinks all over the province. All over the country. All over the world.
Jennifer Jones is gold today. We already knew she was. Now it’s written down forever.