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  • Sunday, February 25, 2001

    Jones wins Tournament of Hearts

  • More Scott Tournament of Hearts Coverage

     SUDBURY, Ont. (CP) -- The Canadian women's curling championship came down to a measurement Sunday, and it was Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones who had the extra few centimetres to beat defending champion Kelley Law 7-6 in an extra end.

     Jones had last-shot advantage. She put a mitt in the hack to prevent herself from slipping, which she had on her previous throw, and then hit off her own counter to roll to the inner eight-foot rings. It is believed to be the only national curling championship to come down to a measurement.

     Lead Nancy Delahunt, who oversaw the measurement, said Jones had the edge by about a quarter-inch, but during the agonizing few seconds the measurement was made, Jones was pessimistic.

     "I am so bad on measurements and I heard (third) Kim (Kelly) say, 'It's yellow," but I thought, 'She's just saying that and it will be them,"' Jones said.

     But when Delahunt jumped for joy, Jones shed tears of relief. The gregarious television personality for CBC Newsworld ran into the media scrum and yelled, "Group hug!"

     "We're grinders," Jones said. "We're going to win it in the 10th or 11th ends, but I don't think it has to be that stressful."

     It was the second major measurement of the Scott Tournament of Hearts playoffs. Quebec's Marie-France Larouche was eliminated when her second stone was deemed a dead heat with an Ontario stone on Friday.

     "To lose on a measurement, that's just the way it goes," said Law, who saw her bid for back-to-back titles come up a hair short. "I guess it wasn't meant to be. Colleen's team played great. They really stuck in there."

     Jones was down 5-2 after six ends and put together one of the two biggest come-from-behind victories in Scott Tournament of Hearts history to win her second title in three years with third Kim Kelly, second Mary-Anne Waye and lead Nancy Delahunt. Jones also won in 1982 at the age of 22 with a different team.

     B.C. was down three after seven ends in 1991 and beat New Brunswick 7-5 in 1991.

     Jones joins Saskatchewan's Sandra Schmirler, Manitoba's Connie Laliberte and Saskatchewan's Vera Pezer as a three-time winner of the event.

     "I don't think I'm in their company," said the 41-year-old Jones. "Those people are legends in my mind and I don't even think I'm in their class.

     "There's a difference between a Gretzky or Lemieux and a grinder and I think when you're looking at somebody like Sandra Schmirler and Connie Laliberte, you're looking at the elite. When you're looking at me, you're looking at working class, go out and grind it out."

     Her Halifax foursome from the Mayflower Curling Club will represent Canada at the world curling championship in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 31 to April 8.

     Jones feels she has unfinished business at worlds as the only Canadian woman skip to not make the podium in her two trips there.

     "The worlds has been nothing but a frustration for me and I'm thrilled to get another opportunity to go back and do what we can do," Jones said. "I know we're a good team and I know we can win that world championship."

     Jones made her 15th appearance at a Scott this week. Her experience helped her adapt to the drastically changing ice conditions in the later ends caused by rain outside the Sudbury Community Arena combined with body heat of the 4,336 spectators inside it. The humidity caused a lot of frost build-up and made the ice heavy.

     Jones slapped a leather mitten in the hack because she knew she was going to have to throw big weight on the heavy ice and a slip would have been the worst kind of luck.

     "I had to make sure I was solid in the hack," she said. "Because of the frost I knew I had to throw it hard."

     Jones's game is one of stealth and patience and when Law's team began to struggle with ice conditions in the eighth, she pounced to draw for three to tie the game 5-5.

     Law gambled in the ninth, trying for a tricky takeout to get two but jammed instead, leaving Jones a steal of one and a one-point lead coming home.

     "It was just my shot in eight that just ticked the guard and gave them three," Law said. "That was the turning point. We thought being down one coming home without (last shot) wasn't too bad, so I tried that shot in nine. We needed it to curl another inch."

     Canadian second Georgina Wheatcroft sailed by both the guard and shot rock with her first shot in the final end, which allowed Nova Scotia to put up guards. Law had to make a difficult raise takeout to get one and send the game into an extra end.

     Law dictated the pace of the game early to take a 5-2 lead after six ends, keeping a lot of rocks in play and not allowing Jones to play the open hitting game she likes.

     Law's team of Wheatcroft, third Julie Skinner and lead Diane Nelson from the Royal City Curling Club in New Westminster, B.C., was trying to become only the fourth team to win back-to-back Canadian women's titles and the first since Schmirler in 1993 and 1994.

     Nova Scotia appeared nearly out of the hunt at 3-4 in the round robin earlier this week. The team has worked with sports psychologist Ken Bagnell out of the national sports centre in Halifax. He arrived here Tuesday and the team credits him with pulling them back from the brink and making them believe in themselves.

     Law and Jones will meet again this year for high stakes because both have secured a berth in the Olympic trials in Regina in December.

     The total attendance at the 2001 Scott Tournament of Hearts was 60,480, which puts it in the top four in total attendance. The record of 154,688 was set in Regina in 1998.

     The 2002 national championship will be held in Brandon, Man.