Decorated Canadian curler Jennifer Jones is part of the young team

CALGARY — Winning and mentorship go hand in hand, that’s what Jennifer Jones envisioned when she called Mackenzie Zacharias.

CALGARY — Winning and mentorship go hand in hand, that’s what Jennifer Jones envisioned when she called Mackenzie Zacharias.

Jones, an Olympic and two-time world curling champion, saw the potential in both when she offered to skip a five-woman squad this season and join the Zacharias quartet, all of whom are under 25.

“I had never talked to him too much in person. I couldn’t really believe I was talking to him,” Zacharias recalled. “I was super nervous, I’m not going to lie.

“It’s very difficult to say no, because as a young skip she is probably the best that has ever played. To have this opportunity to learn from her is incredible. Anyone would jump at this opportunity.

“When she offered to keep all the members of the team we had before, I thought it was a fantastic idea. We are all very good friends and had already had success in our very short careers. feminine.”

Jones, 48, of Winnipeg, joined a young team of motivated women from her home province of Manitoba.

Zacharias, Karlee Burgess, Emily Zacharias and Laura Leninitine had already competed in two Canadian championships after winning the national and world junior titles in 2020.

“I still have those competitive juices and I really want to succeed and win and that’s fun,” Jones said. “They work hard. They love curling. They remind me of when I was their age. They have so much potential and they had already proven themselves.

“But, yeah, I have a lot of experience. I’ve been around for – I don’t feel like that long but a very long time – and I’d like to pass on what I’ve learned along the way to the next generation. , so it really seemed like a good fit.

“It does me good for the next phase, when I retire, I hope my knowledge will last.”

Jones came out of the gates in September with her new team,

They won the Saville Shoot Out in Edmonton and the inaugural PointsBet Invitational in Fredericton, with the latter win worth $50,000 in prize money.

Jones was eliminated in the quarterfinals of October’s season-opening Grand Slam – the Boost National in North Bay, Ont. – then missed the Hearing Life Tour Challenge playoffs in Grande Prairie, Alta.

His team took a circuitous route to Monday’s World Curling Tour fall gold semifinal in Calgary.

Jones avoided elimination five times before falling 6-5 to Switzerland’s Michele Jaeggi in the semi-finals for a tournament record of 6-3.

“We’ve worked very hard this summer,” Jones told The Canadian Press in Calgary. “Early success, not that it was planned, but it didn’t surprise me based on what we’ve done this summer. I think with a new team you always expect some growing pains .

“What I told them is that you want the hills and the valleys because you have to figure out how to get through the valleys to be more successful.”

Jones is currently seventh in the World Curling Federation women’s team standings.

She introduced what was then a novel idea in Canadian curling of a powerful five-woman team when former Rachel Homan frontman Lisa Weagle joined Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman and Dawn McEwen in 2020 .

As a quintet, they won the 2021 Olympic trials and finished fifth in Beijing in February.

In a dozen years as teammates, Jones, third Lawes and first McEwen won Olympic gold in 2014, a world title in 2018, world silver in 2015 and two Olympic trials.

Jones and McEwen also won a world title in 2008.

So their spring decision to disband was seismic in Canadian curling.

Jones was set to make a big team change for the first time in his career as a skip.

“Kaitlyn, Dawn and I played together for 12 years. I thought it would be really, really different because we played together for a long time,” Jones said.

“When you’re on the ice, you’re so immersed in the moment, it wasn’t that weird at all actually to be honest.”

His new team continues and expands the five-player rotation model.

Jones’ vice Zacharias throws a second rock when Jones jumps and returns home when Jones sits down.

“It seemed the most logical,” Jones explained. “The second and the jump play more similar shots, so it seemed like a better fit when Mackenzie was going to move to jump that she would play similar shots compared to the third.

“By all the stats, third hits more than jumps or seconds. We researched that. It wasn’t just like, ‘Let’s see how this works.'”

Burgess throws the third rock with Zacharias’ younger sister, Emily and Leninitine, who cross the front.

“Being able to sit one person down, it gives everyone a bit more breathing space and you have fewer injuries,” Zacharias said. “It lets you play more events, which I think gets you more points.”

“It’s also unique to have someone sitting behind the glass also watching the game and giving that feedback to your team.”

She is a kickboxing instructor so was ready for the physical demands of more sweeping.

Zacharias did seek technical help, however, with Jones’ husband and three-time world champion Brent Laing giving him advice.

The years between 21 and 24 can be a difficult transition for a competitive curler emerging from the junior ranks to compete against the best teams in the world while balancing school and new careers.

Zacharias, 23, believes Jones’ guidance has put her and her teammates on a fast train of development.

“To have her a part of our lives at this age is amazing and it’s going to help us in the future as adults and in curling,” Mackenzie said.

“She has so much experience curling in different countries against different people. She’s lost a lot of matches, but she’s won even more.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 3, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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