With the score 7-0 and the final rocks about to be thrown, Jennifer Jones stood alongside her husband Brent Laing behind the rings inside the KW Granite Curling Club Sunday.
They knew they were about to capture their first title back on the ice — in the midst of a pandemic.
Laing wrapped his arm around his wife and took in the moment.
“When I put my arm around her I told her, ‘you know, I do still like this game,'” Laing said.
“You wonder every year coming back. A long break. I really enjoyed myself today and it’s great to spend time with Jen playing a game we love so much.”
The two were nearly unstoppable in their first event of the season, winning their semifinal game early Sunday in convincing fashion and following it up with an equally strong effort in the championship game against Maddy Warriner and Charlie Richard.
“Curling has been one of the loves of my life. It’s always there for me and that’s why I’m still playing. I was really anxious to get back on the ice. Smell the building. And feel like we’re back at home,” Jones said.
“The ice here was exceptional. Given that this was the first event of the season and it was brand new ice, it was amazing.
JENNIFER JONES AND BRENT LAING FOR THE WIN. <br><br>A championship title in a pandemic. And they were outstanding throughout. <br><br>Here’s my postgame chat with <a href=”https://twitter.com/jjonescurl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@jjonescurl</a> and <a href=”https://twitter.com/blaing99?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@blaing99</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cbccurl</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCOlympics?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCOlympics</a> <a href=”https://t.co/G5y4Z8zEXY”>pic.twitter.com/G5y4Z8zEXY</a>
The two capitalized on the nearly flawless ice conditions, winning every game they played over the competition — five straight wins after being away from the pebbled sheets for months.
“Jen didn’t miss anything today. Every first shot was made perfectly,” Laing said.
“As much as we came into this wanting to have fun, you want to win. It sucks to lose. You want to get a win early in the season.”
The final score was 7-1 and even the 2014 Olympic champion was surprised by how good she was throwing the stone.
“We played quite well. This was actually one of our best mixed doubles day ever,” she said, smiling beneath her colourful mask.
“To be honest it was better than I could have hoped for. That sets the tone and I feel confident going into the season.”
Longest curling offseason
Nobody really knew what to expect going into the weekend. It had been 201 days since teams last hit the ice in a competitive curling setting.
Ten teams gathered in Kitchener-Waterloo to take part in the two-day mixed doubles event, trying on the new curling protocols for the first time.
There was certainly some getting used to the masks and where to stand and how to sweep but Jones and Laing were quick to adapt to the new curling landscape.
“We have never been off the ice for this long. We didn’t know how long it would take to get back in the swing of things,” Jones said.
The couple has spent more time at home together than at any other point in their careers — valuable and meaningful time with their two daughters.
And perhaps most of all, the time away from the game has provided them a new perspective about why they fell in love with curling in the first place.
“As the career gets more advanced you never know how many more seasons you’re going to have,” Jones said.
A feeling shared by Laing.
“We didn’t know if we’d get to throw a rock this season or if all of the sudden our careers would be over,” he said.