Is a curling superstar who’s travelled the world and won Olympic gold thrilled to be spending most of the week in small-city Ontario?
You bet Jennifer Jones is.
“(Small clubs and towns) is where curling has its grassroots,” Jones said at the end of a practice session Wednesday afternoon at the Cornwall Curling Centre, site of the 2019 edition of the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic.
“We’re used to playing in small towns. . . we love meeting curling fans. How many people get to come to a place where people want to meet you? We love it.”
Jones – competing at the event with teammates Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman and Dawn McEwen – is one of several household names at the event this week, the Winnipeg native one of the most decorated players in the history of the sport.
Jones, of Winnipeg, became the first female skip to go undefeated through the Winter Olympic Games, in 2014 in Sochi, Japan. She’s won two world titles, won the national crown a record-tying six times and earlier this year was named the greatest Canadian skip and overall curler in history in a TSN poll of broadcasters, reporters and top athletes in the sport.
But there are always new mountains to climb at the start of a season, and the start of the 2019-20 campaign brings Team Jones to the Seaway City for the first time, competing in what’s a World Curling Tour event.
“You definitely want to play early (in the season), on great ice and in a great place,” Jones said. “We’ve heard tremendous things about the event, about Cornwall.”
Team Jones is on the ice twice for round-robin action Thursday, playing at 10:45 a.m. and again in the 7 p.m. draw.
It’s an expanded women’s field that’ll have ladies teams headed by other big international stars in the sport including Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, Anna Hasselborg, of Sweden, and Eve Muirhead (Scotland).
It’s the fifth year the event is being held in Cornwall, the women’s draw having been expanded from 18 a year ago, to 25, making up five pools of five. The men’s draw will have four pools of six teams, for a total of 24, and an event overall total of 49.
“Online ticket sales are through the roof – it’s doubled from last year,” said Kevin Baker, the co-chair of the event. “The place will be packed, there’ll be a great atmosphere here.”
There is an outdoor spillover area, with television screens inside the big tent, and with bar service in the evening. It’s expected to be a busy place too, especially with many of the curlers heading over after matches.
The event will have its semifinals and finals taking place on Sunday.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at shortyjenkinsclassic.com. Live, provincewide television coverage of various games will begin on Thursday on YourTV (Cogeco), with many games carried on other community cable stations across Ontario.