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Fast start for slowpoke Jones

A winning beginning unusual at this event

 It started badly for Winnipeg’s Chelsea Carey before the bonspiel even began.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

It started badly for Winnipeg’s Chelsea Carey before the bonspiel even began.

Look, it's early. Really early.

But that's the thing, see, that makes Jennifer Jones' emphatic start at the Roar of the Rings on Sunday so compelling -- it came early.

Jones is historically a chronic slow starter at the event that determines Canada's Olympic curling representatives and with a 10-2 win over Winnipeg rival Chelsea Carey on the first draw at MTS Centre Sunday afternoon has already done something she failed to do in two previous failed trips to Canada's curling trials -- win her first game.

So yeah, it's early. But again, that's the thing -- it's early and Jones is not only winning, she's winning big and doing it at a time she's usually digging a hole for herself at this event.

 

Add to that opening-draw losses on Sunday by the three teams widely expected to be Jones' toughest opposition this week -- defending Canadian champion Rachel Homan, 2012 Canadian champion Heather Nedohin and 2012 Players Champion Stefanie Lawton -- and you had pretty darn close to a dream first draw for Jones.

Throw in a huge hometown crowd -- 10,160 -- and it was little wonder Jones could barely contain her enthusiasm afterward.

"The crowd was huge. I get goosebumps even talking about it," she said. "It was way better than we could have imagined and we thought it was going to be unbelievable...

"It feels great to start with a win. It's a long week, but a short week. It's a pretty short round-robin from what we're used to. So you don't want to get behind the 8-ball early."

A steal of two in the third end spotted Jones a 3-0 lead and she put Carey away for good in the sixth end, playing a raise-takeout with the final stone of the end to pluck a Carey stone off the four-foot and score just the second six-ender in Canadian curling trials history.

Of course, one Winnipeg team's dream start was another Winnipeg team's nightmare. And the troubles for the Carey foursome began even before the game, with third Kristy McDonald -- who's four months pregnant -- unable to answer the bell because of a stomach flu that hit her Saturday evening.

With McDonald unable to play on, the Carey team was forced to insert fifth Breanne Meakin -- a three-time Manitoba junior champion -- into the lineup. Meakin curled a respectable 75 per cent and Carey didn't think the change at third was the problem, but it also clearly didn't help.

"We felt like we were throwing the rock really well and the weights were really close," said Carey, "and we just weren't getting the results we would hope for when we're throwing the rock that well. It's just one of those things. It wasn't our game today."

Carey said McDonald was feeling better and is expected to play today when the Carey foursome plays Nedohin on the 8:30 a.m. draw and Homan on the 6:30 p.m. draw. Jones has games against Coldwater, Ont.'s Sherry Middaugh in the morning and Edmonton's Val Sweeting in the evening.

Middaugh upset Lawton 5-3 on Sunday, while Sweeting stunned Homan 10-3 in a game in which Homan shot a shockingly low 60 per cent.

"We learned some things and we'll be more knowledgeable going into the next game and should play better than that," pledged Homan.

The win was huge for the unheralded Sweeting team, one of the last to qualify for this event.

"Everyone likes a good underdog," said Sweeting. "So if that's us, that's totally fine with me."

In the other women's game on Sunday, Nedohin lost 8-6 to Grande Prairie's Renee Sonnenberg.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

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