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Walling: Jones rink reunites in hopes to make Olympics

Alex J. Walling
2/18/2012 9:04:46 PM
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After a five year hiatus, one of the greatest women's curling teams will be reunited this fall in an attempt to get to the Olympic trials in hopes of representing Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Nova Scotia's Queen of curling, Colleen Jones, will be back with her old rink with Kim Kelly, Mary Anne Arsenault and in a way Nancy Delahunt.   This group captured five Scotties titles and two World championships from 1999 – 2004.

Around five years ago the team broke up because they felt they had achieved everything there was in curling. After all, how many purple hearts and Scotties victories and world championships can one team handle?

Three of the team at the time Arsenault, Kelly and Delahunt felt that way but not Jones.  She still wanted to compete and was willing to put in the time necessary to remain one of the top teams in Canada. 

The other three were content to play the game more for "fun" and if they won and advanced in different spiels so be it.

The three women achieved a bit of success provincially, winning a play-down and going to the Scotties posting a 6-5 mark in 2008 with Arsenault as skip.  

The next year Kelly retired.

Now, most of the team will reunite to go after the only prize they have not attained, an Olympic berth.  They tried in 2002 and at the Roar of the Rings in December 2005 but were unsuccessful.  The group was not together in 2009 to make a bid for the Vancouver Olympics.

So after six years, the group is back together, but with a twist.   Nancy Delahunt will be back but not in a playing role.  She will serve as the team's manager or coach.

The rink will consist of Jones, Kelly, Arsenault and a youngster by the name of Jenn Baxter and they will try and qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

And, the women know it's going to be one big mountain to climb.

"It's going to be an awesome adventure,"  Jones tells TSN.ca. 

Jones curled this year in the seniors and for the 24th time won a provincial title.

Jones was the one who initiated the reunion when she texted Arsenault around 10 days ago. 

"I want to play and compete," she told TSN.ca and it seems the others want the same thing.

"Maybe five years and not that much success as we are accustom to have kicked in," Kelly said. "We may have missed the drive that Colleen brings to everything she does.  I am looking forward to the team getting together."

Mary Anne Arsenault will skip the team but in unsure where the other pieces fall.  "Colleen has another provincial title and we will talk about that when she returns from her national competition in March," she told TSN.ca.

Just how good was the Jones rink in their prime?  How about from 1999-2004 the team skipped by Jones, with Kelly as third, Arsenault playing second and Delahunt as lead won five Canadian titles, four in a row, and two world crowns.  

All three women would like one last shot at it.   For Jones 52, and Kelly 49 it might be their last crack but Arsenault is only 43-years-old and there appears to be some time left for her.

Jones will not skip the team but says even in their winning years it was a consensus in the decision making.

"We always talked about the shots as a group," she says but the fact remains the final decision was Colleen's.   Kelly admits having Jones on board could be interesting.

"She wants to win all the time and it could lead to some interesting moments," she told me on the phone with a chuckle.

With that said, the women are realistic. "We didn't get to the Olympics in 2002 and 2006 and we are older and getting to the tournament that determines the Olympic winner is harder now than it was in the past," Arsenault said.  "We may have to travel out west to get more competition and/or to make it to the Olympic trials.  It may be challenging."

So who will play where?   Jones says she is prepared to play second or third and Kim Kelly, third on the Jones great rinks is not sure where she will end up. 
"Whatever helps the team, I am willing to do," she told TSN.ca

The only position decided is that the 24-year-old Baxter will be the lead.

One of the motivations for the curlers deciding to return, was watching Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton win the Brier and the world championship in 2011.  Stoughton represented Canada in 1999 at the world championship.  That was the first year that Jones and her rink represented Canada.

Jones also points out that she has never lost with Arsenault and likes the chemistry they have.

"She is a dynamite curler and can throw heavy weight which is an asset," Jones said. "I'm anxious to curl with her again."

A challenge it will be, but what kind of results will they have?

Having watched Jones, Kelly and Arsenault for decades I have no doubt that the effort will be there and the competition will be in play but the results could be anywhere from flaming out to recording some key victories.

It will make eight years since Colleen, Kim and Mary Anne won a Canadian championship and that is a long time.

Also the game has changed in the last few years with heavier take out weight.   That has never been Jones's game. 

Arsenault can throw a heavy rock but she is the only one.

"It's all about the competition and winning," Jones said.  "If we win, then the results will happen and who knows where we will wind up."

The Canadian curling community is also waiting and will be watching.

I'm Alex J. Walling for TSN.ca

Alex J. can be reached via email at: ajw@eastlink.ca

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