Canada's curling GOAT Jennifer Jones: "It's not about the accolades"

In an exclusive interview with Olympics.com, the Sochi 2014 Olympic champion – who will represent Canada again at Beijing 2022 – discusses being considered the greatest female curler her nation has ever produced, as well as her family's support as she chases another gold medal.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

Jennifer Jones has won everything there is to win in women's curling.

The Sochi 2014 Olympic champion also has two world titles, six Canadian national Scotties Tournament of Hearts gold medals, two Canadian Olympic Trials gold medals, and multiple Grand Slam of Curling wins to her name.

In 2019, the Manitoban was voted by a panel of broadcasters, reporters, and former and fellow curling players as Canada's greatest female curler of all time. But, speaking to Olympics.com in an exclusive interview ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, Jones says that is not the main thing she wants to be remembered by when she does finally decide to stop playing.

"It's not about the accolades or the awards or standing on top of the podium; it's the whole love of the game," Jones says.

"I want to be remembered as somebody who had a passion for the game, who loved the game, who tried to push the limits of what women's curling was all about.

"If I can have any impact on the future of curling in Canada or even the world, that's probably what means the most to me [more than being named greatest of all time]."

That's not to say she didn't appreciate the award.

"That was probably one of the most emotional awards that I've ever received, because it was voted on by peers," Jones admits.

"I remember one of my daughters looking up to me and saying, 'they named you better than anybody,' and she was so excited. It was really humbling for me to be in the same breath with all of these people and then to be voted as the best was definitely something that I'll remember forever."

Jones in action with her teammates Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen during the Sochi 2014 curling competition
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

Preparing for a second Winter Olympic Games

Beijing 2022 will be Jones's second Olympic experience. At Sochi 2014, she led her team to the gold medal without losing a single match along the way.

That triumph, she says, remains the one that's nearest to her heart despite her long list of career highlights.

"It's the cream of the crop, it's the one that's the hardest to get to, especially from Canada," she says. Unlike many other countries, Canada normally selects its Olympic and World Championship teams through a trial competition.

"We tried for so many years to get to the Olympic Games, and [experienced] failing at the trials and not being selected as a team to go. So it's hard to get there.

"And then when you get there, you want to perform well and to go through, and we played our very best at those Olympic Games. To stand on the podium with all of our family there and seeing the Canadian flag being raised, we got to have that moment, so that definitely has to stand out, and hopefully we'll have another one to add to it."

Between the members of Jones' current team – made up of vice-skip Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Dawn McEwen, and alternate Lisa Weagle in addition to Jones – Beijing 2022 will mark 10 total Olympic appearances. Only Peterman will be making her Olympic debut in the Chinese capital. Jones, Lawes, and McEwen were all part of the winning 2014 team, while Lawes won mixed doubles gold in 2018 and Weagle was part of the Canadian women's team that missed the medal round in PyeongChang.

"You don't need experience to be successful, but it's never going to hurt you because never you know what you're going to feel, what it's going to be like," Jones says.

"We almost have the benefit of everything because we have Jocelyn, who has never been there, so she's just got the new perspective of going to the Olympics, the energy, the excitement that you can't really package up.

"And then we have our experience for being in those big games and at the Olympic Games. And then Lisa has a different perspective of how her Olympic experience went. So we're trying to bring all of that together and try to create one unbelievable plan for Beijing, where we go in and we use all of our experience and excitement."

Jennifer Jones's family support

Like most other curlers, Jones is not a full-time athlete. She is also a lawyer and motivational speaker, and has two children who turn six and ten in 2022. That means a juggling effort between her family, job, and sport.

"I don't know if you can ever balance it," Jones states matter-of-factly. "I feel like people try to feel like they need to be in balance at all times.

"For me, it's always just being being in the moment whenever I'm doing anything. So when I'm on the training ice, I give 100 percent of my time and focus to training and curling and not feeling guilty for that. But when I'm with my family, I try to give them 100 percent of my attention and time."

Jones is married to fellow Olympian and three-time world champion Brent Laing, which means they are often both away competing.

"My mom is unbelievable," Jones says. "She has basically nannied our kids whenever my husband and I are competing. Without that support, there's no way that we could do it."

Jones adds: "I look at my kids and I don't ever feel guilty because they truly believe that anything is possible; if you work hard, your dreams will come true. And it's because they've watched my husband and I chase our dreams, work hard, and we've been fortunate enough that our dreams have come true: my husband was in PyeongChang, I was in Sochi, we're going to Beijing.

"I think they believe that they can just sign up for the Olympics," Jones laughs. "So it's not really about a balance, just about being present and in the moment and never feeling guilty for the choices that we make."

After Jones defeated Tracy Fleury's rink in an extra end in the Canadian Olympic Trials final, Laing was on hand with a video call to their children watching from home in one of the most touching moments from the tournament.

"My kids give me an extra booster of something inside, they make me want to try my very best to never give up because I want to set an example for them that they if you leave it all out there, if you feel like you put everything into it, you're always going to be happy and grateful and just never have regrets.

"To see how excited they were… Isabella told me that in the 10th end when it didn't work out, she told grandma it didn't matter – we were going to get a point in the 11th. And so I said, just always keep that faith and we'll do our very best to see what we can do."

Learning to enjoy the experience

Asked to name her biggest strength, Jones pauses before thanking her parents for the perspective they taught her while growing up.

"My mom was actually an oncology nurse and my dad was the most happy-go-lucky grateful for everything in life person, and that's how I grew up," she says.

"I really feel like that's a part of me, it's in my soul. So we're going to have fun at the Olympics. We're going to enjoy all the little moments regardless of what happens. And I always think that that perspective has helped me in those big moments on the curling ice. It's helped me be a mom.

"It's helped me balance things because you can be present and in the moment and really be appreciative of all the great things that have happened in our life. And I try to translate that into our curling team, into life in general."

Jones will attempt to take that perspective into Beijing 2022 alongside Lawes, Peterman, McEwen, and Weagle.

"I think we've each really worked hard on our team to figure out what our role is and how we can bring out the best of each other, whether that's me or somebody else on the team," she says of her role.

"But I am the leader on the team, and I'm the one that kind of sets the tone. So I want to go out there and make sure I set the tone of having fun enjoying it and just really soaking up the experience.

"After that, everything else hopefully will fall into place and we can make a ton of shots and see where we are at the end of the week."

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