The journey to the top of the Olympic podium – or any spot on the podium for that matter – will be a daunting one for the Canadian women’s curling team.
Canada still has the best curling depth in the world, but’s it’s no secret many other nations have caught up when it comes to best-on-best competition.
For the first time in Olympic history, Canada failed to reach the podium in both men’s and women’s four-person curling at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Jennifer Jones alongside third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen captured gold at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the last Canadian women’s team to accomplish the remarkable feat. And now three quarters of that championship rink are returning to the biggest stage in sport, this time with Jocelyn Peterman throwing second stones.
“I think we all feel like kids in a candy store, like it’s our first time going to the Olympics. It’s just so surreal to be going back,” Jones said in a recent media availability.
“I think experience is always an added benefit. It’s not necessary. I would say right now I feel like it’s the perfect world because some of us have been, so we have experience and it’s Jocelyn’s first time, so we get to see the Olympics through her eyes all over again which is super exciting. There’s really nothing better in the world than walking in and seeing the Olympics rings.”
In 2014 against a field which included Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson, Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott and Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, Team Jones went a perfect 9-0 in the round robin before beating Sweden in the final, 6-3.
“I remember heading into Sochi and everybody was saying it was the best field that had ever been assembled in women’s curling,” explained the 47-year-old. “And now everybody is saying the same thing heading into Beijing. So, it’s an outstanding field. Every team is capable of winning the event.”
In Beijing, just about every team has a chance to finish in the top three, including 2018 medallists in Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg (gold), South Korea’s EunJung Kim (silver) and Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa (bronze). Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni, ROC’s Alina Kovaleva and Great Britain’s Muirhead are all heavy hitters as well.
“I just think it says a lot about women’s curling where every year you’re saying the field is getting better and better,” said Jones. “It was a tough field back in Sochi, it’s a tough field in Beijing. We’re going to have to play our very best in order to be on that podium.”
On the season, Team Jones holds a record of 32-15 with their lone event victory coming at the Trials in November.
The 10-team Olympic field will play a nine-game round robin followed by the four best teams competing in the playoffs.
“We can’t guarantee the outcome, but I can guarantee to all of Canada that we are going to leave it all out on the ice and not be scared to lose and we’re just going to try our very best to win and try to do Canada proud,” said Jones.
Let’s take a closer look at Canada’s path to gold in women’s curling at the Beijing Olympics. Stats courtesy of Curling Zone.
Game 1 – South Korea (EunJung Kim)
World Ranking: 7
Feb. 10 at 7am ET
The Garlic Girls are back at the Olympics.
The foursome made international headlines on home soil during their silver medal run at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, earning the nickname "Garlic Girls" thanks to their hometown of Uiseong, which is known for its bountiful garlic production. Shortly after the Olympics, Team Kim made the playoffs at the World Women’s Curling Championship in North Bay, Ont.
A coaching scandal kept them away from the ice for a good portion of the following season after they spoke out on the verbal and emotional abuse they were subject to from their coaches and officials. Prize money was also kept from them. The country’s National Sports Ministry investigated, eventually leading to the lifetime bans of various officials within the Korean Curling Federation, including their former vice-president.
Team Kim returned to the world championship last season in the Calgary bubble, missing the six-team playoff with a 7-6 record. The result forced them to earn their ticket to Beijing via a last-chance qualifier in December.
In 2021-22, Team Kim holds a record of 43-16 and won the Korean Curling Championship in the summer. Jones and Kim have faced each other 10 times in their careers with Jones taking eight of those contests. They’ve split their two head-to-head matchups this season.
Four years ago, Team Rachel Homan dropped the first game of the Olympics to Team Kim, so the South Koreans are fully capable of giving Canada a headache.
Game 1 will be a tough test to start.
Game 2 – Japan (Satsuki Fujisawa)
World Ranking: 5
Feb. 11 at 1am ET
Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa won the bronze medal in 2018 and will be Team Jones’ second opponent in Beijing.
The 30-year-old Fujisawa also owns a silver medal from the 2016 worlds.
Team Fujisawa has a 28-12 record this season, highlighted by a win at the Red Deer Curling Classic in November and a win over South Korea at the last-chance qualifier in the Netherlands to punch their ticket to the Winter Games.
Jones is 7-5 against Fujisawa all-time, but the Japanese skip has taken their last two matchups.
Fujisawa’s rink is one of the most energetic and lively foursomes in curling and are always entertaining to watch. They won’t get rattled either, no matter the opponent or the stage they’re playing on.
Game 3 – Sweden (Anna Hasselborg)
World Ranking: 2
Feb. 11 at 8pm ET
Game 3 features the third straight medallist from the 2018 Games.
Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg went 7-2 in the round robin in Pyeongchang and proceeded to top Great Britain and South Korea in the playoffs to capture the country’s third women’s curling gold medal in the last four Olympics.
Hasselborg, 32, has helmed the same foursome since 2015 and they could very well be the team to beat in Beijing.
Team Hasselborg had a slow start to the season but beat Team Tracy Fleury in the final of the National on the Grand Slam circuit in early November and then made it to the final of the European Curling Championships later in the month, losing to Scotland’s Eve Muirhead. The Swedes are 29-16 in 2021-22.
The rink from Sundbybergs has appeared in four world championships, earning back-to-back silvers in 2018 and 2019. Jones beat Hasselborg in the 2018 World Championship final in North Bay, Ont., shortly after Hasselborg’s gold-medal triumph in South Korea. Team Hasselborg has also won two Euro titles.
The two skips are fairly even all-time with the Canadian taking 11 of their 19 matchups. However, Hasselborg has won the last five, dating back to October 2018.
Sweden and Canada have gone head-to-head in two Olympic gold-medal finals in women’s curling with each side taking a victory. Could this matchup be the preview of a third?
Game 4 – Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni)
World Ranking: 8
Feb. 13 at 1am ET
Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni is another European rink that has evolved into a curling powerhouse.
Tirinzoni skipped the Swiss at the 2018 Olympics, missing the playoffs with a 4-5 record. The following season, Tirinzoni relinquished her last rock duties for newcomer Alina Patz, a sharpshooter with a pair of world titles already under her belt before the age of 30. Tirinzoni also added Melanie Barbezat to play lead and moved Esther Neuenschwander from third to second.
The lineup change seemed to work as Tirinzoni, 42, skipped the Swiss to world championships in 2019 and 2021 and the foursome have been strong contenders on Tour over the past quadrennial.
Team Tirinzoni is 24-10 in 2021-22 without any bonspiel wins.
Jones has definitely had the edge all-time against Tirinzoni, holding a 21-6 all-time record, including their lone matchup this season in October.
Switzerland has won six of the last nine World Women’s Curling Championships and will look to earn its first Olympic title in Beijing. They have the firepower to get it done and Team Jones will need to be ready.
Canada might have the toughest schedule over their first four games, so a 2-2 record at this point of the tournament should be seen as a positive.
Game 5 – ROC (Alina Kovaleva)
World Ranking: 11
Feb. 13 at 8pm ET
Canada’s next matchup is an interesting one as ROC’s Alina Kovaleva could be one of the biggest dark horses at the Beijing Olympics.
Competing in her forth world championship last year inside the Calgary bubble, Kovaleva, a 28-year-old from Saint Petersburg, made it all the way to the final where she fell to Silvana Tirinzoni and the Swiss.
Kovaleva has a history of success on the international stage, winning the 2013 World Junior Curling Championship in Sochi and helped fellow Russian Anna Sidorova claim silver at the 2017 worlds in the second position.
Team Kovaleva sits 23-12 on the season. They finished fourth at this year’s European Curling Championship.
Four years ago, the Olympic Athletes from Russia were led by Victoria Moiseeva and finished with a disappointing 2-7 record.
Maybe the most interesting stat regarding Kovaleva and ROC is that the skip is 5-1 all-time against Jones. The Russian has taken their last four matchups as well.
Can Jones stop the streak in Beijing?
Game 6 – Great Britain (Eve Muirhead)
World Ranking: 4
Feb. 14 at 7am ET
At just 31, Eve Muirhead of Perth will compete in her fourth Olympics.
At the Vancouver Games in 2010, Muirhead went 3-6 before earning the bronze in Sochi four years later. In Pyeongchang, Muirhead made the playoffs, but would end up losing to Japan in the third-place game.
However, Team Muirhead has a completely different look this time around with three new teammates, including second Jennifer Dodds, who also competed with Bruce Mouat in the mixed-doubles event, falling to Sweden in the bronze medal match.
At 32-5 in 2021-22, Muirhead is having one of the best seasons of her career with bonspiel wins in Basel, Tallinn and her third career Euro curling title in Lillehammer. After a disappointing finish at last year’s world championship, Muirhead and company were forced to qualify for the Olympics in a last-chance event in the Netherlands at the end of 2021, posting a record of 6-2.
Muirhead, the 2013 world champ, could be primed for a similar run in Beijing.
If history is any indication, Jones will have the upper hand in the game, however, as she holds a 28-14 record over Muirhead all-time, including taking 11 of the last 13 matchups.
Game 7 – United States (Tabitha Peterson)
World Ranking: 9
Feb. 15 at 8pm ET
Another rink that could sneak onto the podium if a few things go their way is Minnesota’s Team Tabitha Peterson.
Three members of this squad competed in South Korea and posted a 4-5 record with Nina Roth helming skip duties. Peterson has since taken over the full-time skipper role with Roth serving as vice. The change earned them bronze at last year’s world championships.
Like Muirhead, Team Peterson own a scorching record of 32-7 this season with three event wins on Tour. They also went 11-1 at the United States Olympics Trials to earn their spot at the Beijing Olympics.
Jones and Peterson have only squared off three times with Peterson taking two of those matches.
Team Peterson doesn’t have the same pedigree of success as Team Jones, but the Canadians could very well be in must-win territory at this point given their daunting schedule to start.
Game 8 – China (Han Yu)
World Ranking: 76
Feb. 16 at 7am ET
In their penultimate round-robin game, Jones takes on the lowest-ranked team in the field in China’s Han Yu.
At just 21, Han Yu is the youngest skip in the field. She and her rink from Beijing competed at last year’s World Women’s Curling Championship, finishing with a very respectable 6-7 record.
They’ll be major underdogs all week but proved they can hang with the best at last year’s worlds, highlighted by a 7-5 win over Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg.
Time will tell if the pressure of playing as the host nation will push them forward or cause them to falter.
Jones and Yu have never played each other.
Game 9 – Denmark (Madeleine Dupont)
World Ranking: 41
Feb. 17 at 1am ET
Denmark, skipped by Madeleine Dupont, finished last at the 2018 Winter Olympics with an 1-8 record.
Dupont, 33, also went 4-5 at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and 2-7 at the 2006 Olympics in Turin as a third for Dorthe Holm.
The Danes qualified for Beijing after making the playoffs at the World Women’s Curling Championship last season in Calgary with an 8-5 record. They would go on to lose to the Americans.
Team Dupont is 16-11 on the season, highlighted by a 4-3 victory over Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg in the Women’s Masters Basel final. They also went 2-7 at the European Curling Championship.
Jones and Dupont have split their two previous matchups all-time.
Dupont has given the Canadians trouble in the past as she beat Rachel Homan, 9-8, in an extra end at the 2018 Olympics to send Team Homan to an 0-3 start, a deficit they would never dig themselves out of.
The round-robin finale could be an interesting one if Team Jones is fighting for a playoff spot.