With a combined 12 Canadian curling championships, seven world titles and an Olympic gold medal between them, it’s hard to believe that something was missing from the trophy cabinet at the household of Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing.
But Sunday before a thoroughly packed house at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury, Ont., Jones and Laing capped a masterful performance at the 2023 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship to add yet another national gold medal, and their first as teammates.
The Horseshoe Valley, Ont., tandem defeated two-time national mixed doubles champs Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant of Chestermere, Alta., in the gold-medal game to earn the right to represent Canada at the 2023 World Mixed Doubles Championship next month in Gangneung, South Korea.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Laing, who adds the Canadian mixed doubles crown to his three Brier victories, three world men’s titles, two Canadian junior wins and two world junior titles. “It hasn’t really sunk in quite yet. We had a great attitude this week of just play our best, take every end one end at a time and see where we end up. And we ended up winning, so that’s pretty cool. I think it will really sink in when we get home with the kids; they’ll be excited. It’s pretty awesome.”
It was a nailbiter to the very end, with the teams tied 4-4 heading into the eighth and Jones/Laing holding the hammer. After Peterman half-buried her last shot behind a corner guard, Jones was able to play a hack-weight tap to remove the shot rock and score five for the win, and celebrated with a lengthy hug as the cheers of the crowd rained down on them.
“We are getting towards the tail end of our careers, so it’s going to be a special memory that we’ll cherish forever, to be Team Canada together, to share these moments together,” said Jones, a six-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner to go along her two world championships, her 2014 Olympic gold medal and a Canadian junior championship. “Even winning this felt great, to give Brent a hug right after the game instead of waiting those five minutes to get down to the ice through the crowd.”
The teams scored nothing but single points for five ends — the fifth being a steal for Peterman and Gallant.
But in the sixth, the door opened for Jones to make an open hit with a small roll to score the game’s first (and ultimately game-changing) deuce.
“It was disappointing to give up the steal (in the fifth) because I missed my first shot that end and it got us in a bit of trouble,” said Jones. “But we said before the fifth end whoever gets the first deuce is likely going to win, and we managed to get the first deuce. It was a really good game; the score wasn’t indicative of the amount of rocks in play, that’s for sure.”
“I know if (Jones) has a shot for two, we’re probably going to get two,” added Laing. “It was a well-played game; Brett and Jocelyn didn’t miss for a while, and in the second half it was kind of back and forth. It was a fun game to play.”
Jones and Laing collected $40,000 for their victory, while Peterman and Gallant earned $20,000.
Jones and Laing reached the final with a 6-5 semifinal win Sunday morning over Rachel Homan of Beaumont, Alta., and Tyler Tardi of Peachland, B.C., while Peterman and Gallant were 7-6 winners over Brittany Tran of Calgary and Aaron Sluchinski of Airdrie, Alta. The semifinal losers each pocketed $12,500.
Jones and Laing will now start planning their return trips to the Gangneung Curling Centre — a building both have played in. Jones skipped Team Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 2009 World Women’s Curling Championship there, while Laing was a member of Kevin Koe’s Canadian Olympic men’s team that finished fourth at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Canada’s national mixed doubles coach Scott Pfeifer was the alternate for Team Koe in 2018.
“We were there in the Athletes Village and didn’t really get to experience the city,” said Laing. “So I’m excited to go back. Pfeif will be with us again; obviously he was with us in 2018. So it’s somebody familiar and somebody we can count on. We’re super excited.”
“It’ll be great to go back there,” added Jones. “At the end of the day we just want to go and play well and have fun. I can tell everybody in Canada that we’re never going to quit and we’re going to try our very hardest to stand on that podium.”
This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/category-all-posts-fr/?lang=fr