Late misses helped decide a wild, entertaining and rather shocking women’s final at Canada’s Olympic curling trials on Sunday.
Jennifer Jones stunningly blew a golden opportunity to win the game in the 10th end. The timing of Tracy Fleury’s error in the extra end proved even more costly.
When the dust settled, Jones escaped with an enthralling 6-5 victory to book her team’s ticket to the Beijing Games.
“We’re there to pick each other up when you miss,” Jones said. “Not everybody can say that, and that’s really a big strength of our team.”
A gasp went up throughout SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon when Jones missed an open takeout for the victory — usually a slam dunk for the veteran skip — with her stone rolling out to leave her with just a game-tying single.
Jones realized halfway down the sheet that the rock was in trouble. She furiously bellowed at her teammates to try to hold it, but it curled a little too much.
A stunned Fleury put her hand over her mouth in astonishment.
“We thought we had lost in the 10th for sure,” Fleury said. “I think Jen makes that 99 per cent of the time, that shot. So we felt lucky to be able to go to an extra, and we really wanted to pull it off there.
“But I didn’t make my last two shots.”
Jones refocused and put pressure on to force Fleury to make a challenging final throw. Jones drew to the side of the button behind a guard, and Fleury missed a runback attempt.
Jones followed with a guard that Fleury rubbed on her final throw to give up the decisive point on a steal.
“I felt close, but then it just kind of caught the curl,” Fleury said.
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The men’s final between Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs was scheduled for Sunday night.
Jones and her team of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Dawn McEwen and Lisa Weagle entered the showdown of Manitoba-based teams with a big edge in experience.
Jones won Olympic gold at the 2014 Sochi Games and has won six national women’s titles. Fleury and her team of Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish, were making their first appearance in a trials final.
Early jitters seemed to be a factor.
Rollouts were common in the first end, and Jones put early pressure on to generate a quick steal. Jones buried a draw to force Fleury to tap, but she brushed her own stone and rolled off.
Njegovan’s numbers were low in the early going. The vice-skip moved two of her own stones on a runback attempt in the second end, but her side recovered for a single.
Jones made some mistakes, too, as she sent a draw through the rings in the third end, eventually settling for a hit for two. Fleury responded with a pair of her own, and Lawes came through in the fifth end with a brilliant triple-takeout that set up a blank.
The top-ranked Fleury team wasn’t nearly as dominant as they were throughout most of round-robin play at SaskTel Centre.
Her perfect 8-0 mark gave her the first seed and an off-day ahead of the final. Jones was 5-3 in round-robin play and defeated Krista McCarville in the semifinal on Saturday.
Jones gave away another point in the sixth end when her draw grazed the shot stone and settled on the edge of the four-foot ring. A measure confirmed a single instead of a pair, giving her a 4-3 lead.
In the eighth end, Fleury looked to set up a force, but Jones made a hit and rolled under cover to save the blank.
Njegovan stepped up her game in the second half. She made two excellent taps in a crowded house in the ninth end, and Fleury followed with two decent draws.
Jones decided to give up a single to keep hammer for the 10th end.
Kevin Koe and Rachel Homan skipped the Canadian team entries at the 2018 Winter Games, but both missed the podium.
Lawes and John Morris won the mixed doubles title in the discipline’s Olympic debut that year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Beijing Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 4-20.
The Canadian mixed doubles trials are set for Dec. 28-Jan. 2 in Portage la Prairie, Man.
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