Wild finishes marked the conclusion of the eighth Canadian Olympic Trials, as veterans Jennifer Jones and Brad Gushue grabbed Canada’s team curling berths for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
The women’s final, amazingly, delivered far more drama than the second women’s tiebreaker.
Tracy Fleury’s Winnipeg team, so dominant during the week, had been outmaneuvered by city rival Jones into the 10th and final end. The 2014 Olympic champion faced a down-weight hit for the win but threw tentatively and it overcurled— while Fleury’s shot stone bonked a Jones counter, spilling all the beans, and Jones scored only one for a 5-5 tie—and an extra-end.
The number of different emotions visible on Fleury’s face over a 10-second span was startling. From Olympic dreams effectively dashed, she now had a second life.
In the extra-end, Jones sent third Kaitlyn Lawes around a Fleury centre guard to the button. Fleury third Selena Njegovan made the runback. Jones followed Lawes in, and Fleury missed her runback.
Jones threw her final guard a little long, leaving Fleury an inturn hit on the partially buried counter—the skip from Sudbury, Ont. could probably see two-thirds of it—but her throw was tight and wrecked on the guard. Team Jones exploded in joy.
“I couldn’t believe I missed that shot in ten,” said Jones. “I never would’ve forgiven myself. Maybe my dad was looking down on us.
“Going to the Olympics is a dream come true and to get to do it twice is such a privilege.”
“I don’t cry much so this was obviously a big deal,” said Team Fleury’s Njegovan.
“It was just an up-and-down game, and we weren’t a sharp as we had been all week, unfortunately. We were pretty amped up to have a second chance in the eleventh, but unfortunately it’s the way sport goes.”
Fleury and Njegovan were backed by second Liz Fyfe, the daughter of Manitoba legend Vic Peters, and lead Kristin MacCuish.
Kaitlyn Lawes will now head to her third straight Olympic Winter games, after winning gold at Sochi 2014 with Jones and lead Dawn McEwen, and mixed doubles gold at PyeongChang 2018. Second Jocelyn Peterman will compete at her first Olympics, while alternate Lisa Weagle will mark her second Games experience after competing with Rachel Homan in Korea.
The men’s final between the two Brads—2006 Olympic champion Gushue and 2014 winner Jacobs—was a see-saw affair. Little half-misses kept things interesting through seven taut ends of a 2-1 scoreline, but 2-2 in the ninth Gushue scored a critical deuce.
Under time pressure in the final end, Jacobs maneuvered for his winning three-count but instead faced a tricky hit to score his tying deuce and force an extra-end. Gushue’s counter clipped a Jacobs stone, leaving the Northern Ontarians scoring only one, and it was the Gushue team’s turn to celebrate.
Gushue was backed by longtime third Mark Nichols and front-enders Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker.
“Oh man, the emotions after we won,” said the normally unflappable Gushue. “I was susprised at how much (emotion) I had. I watched the last end of the women’s game, after it was over I find myself crying after that. So I knew the emotions were there for tonight.
“Boy oh boy, did we play good, and I thought we managed the game. I heard ‘boring’ out there so I apologize to those people who thought it was boring, but I enjoyed myself.”
“Definitely could have played a little bit better as a team,” said Jacobs, who had crushed defending Trials men’s champion Kevin Koe in the semifinal.
“It was hard to get anything going. Just not our best today. Like I said yesterday, we needed to be near-perfect today in order to win this game and we weren’t.”
Team Jacobs comprises two members of the 2014 gold-medal squad, E.J. and Ryan Harnden. 2010 champion and ’18 Olympian Mark Kennedy joined the team in 2019.
“I’m really proud of my guys for the way that they played all week,” said Jacobs. “We were a world-class team all week.”
“I was always an Olympian (before the win),” said Gushue, referring to his Turin 2006 experience. “Once an Olympian you’re always an Olympian, but the special part is that Brett and Geoff now get that opportunity.”