Curling fans packed the home Winnipeg rink of Jennifer Jones and watched the Team Canada skip win gold Thursday in women's curling at the Sochi Olympics.
Jones, who curls out of the St. Vital Curling Club, defeated Team Sweden 6-3, capping off an undefeated Olympic run of 11 straight victories.
“It’s just been an amazing journey for us and a lot of hard work, and it’s paid off,” said Jones after her victory. “We had the best week of our lives.”
Jennifer’s sister, Heather Jones, watched the win from Winnipeg.
“I’m kind of beside myself to be honest,” she said. “I can’t wait to actually give her a squeeze and see that medal myself!”
Heather wasn't the only one watching.
“I wanted my granddaughter on my knee so I could remember forevermore where I was and who I was holding [when] we got gold!” said Kerry Kohut, who has curled in Winnipeg’s St. Vital neighbourhood for more than 30 years and watched the events live on Thursday.
The win also sent a swarm of people decked out in red and white at the Winnipeg curling club into a cheering-and-cowbell-ringing frenzy so loud it's not unlikely Jones and her rink — third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer, and lead Dawn McEwen — heard it more than 8,000 kilometres away in Russia.
Among the 130-140 supporters at the curling club was Manitoba Permier Greg Selinger, who said Jones has not only made her country proud, but she's "going to lift the whole game of curling in Manitoba.
"And it lifts Manitoba as a presence around the country," he added.
Nine-year-old fan Joshua Geisbrecht shared that sentiment.
"She inspires me a lot. It's all in my family, too. It's her and my grandma and my sister, and just watching her play just inspires me so much," he said.
Duane Budnick the president of the St. Vital Curling Club, said he thinks the win will mean a resurgence of interest in the sport.
"We're going to see it across Canada. The excitement comes and people want to try it," he said.
Team Canada will be arriving back in Winnipeg at the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on Monday, February 24 at 10:11 p.m.
Immediately following the game, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz issued a congratulatory press release.
“It is with great pride that I congratulate Jennifer Jones and her teammates on their gold medal winning performance at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games,” he said. “It is a rare honour to have the opportunity to represent your country at the Olympics, and Team Jones did a phenomenal job as both athletes and ambassadors for Canada. Speaking on behalf of all Winnipeggers, we could not be prouder.”
Upon their return, Mayor Katz will present the team with City of Winnipeg outstanding achievement award medallions – an honour bestowed to gold medal Olympic champions based or residing in Winnipeg.
A presentation ceremony will be announced at a later date.