Tag Archives: curler

Love and loss: The bittersweet legacy of curler Aly Jenkins

Pink balloons and banners, cupcakes and celebration. 

Young Sydney waved her arms in excitement, smiling as family and friends sang happy birthday. A first birthday for her. So much joy and love swirling around the room. 

And unavoidably, so much pain, too. 

This was supposed to be one of the best days of Scott Jenkins’s life. Now it’s taking everything he has just to make it through Oct. 20. 

His birthday and his daughter Sydney’s birthday on the same day —  but exactly one year ago life changed forever. It would be the last time Scott saw the love of his life. 

His wife, Aly Jenkins, died giving birth to Sydney, the tragic outcome of a rare complication during childbirth — an amniotic embolism — almost unthinkable for a healthy 30-year-old.

Now the father of three continues to piece life back together. 

WATCH | Scott Jenkins recounts a difficult day, an even harder year:

Curler Aly Jenkins died suddenly on Oct. 20, 2019 while giving birth to her daughter, Sydney. One year later, her husband Scott is trying to pick up the pieces, making sure their three children remember their mom’s legacy. 5:07

“My birthday will never be the same. We can’t change that. But we can make it a great day for Sydney and celebrate her and what her mother did for her,” Scott told CBC Sports.

Now in a new home not far from where Scott and Aly started their family in Warman, Sask., Scott is figuring out this new normal for his five-year-old son Brady, two-year-old daughter Avery and Sydney. 

“That’s the hardest part. I don’t really know what this is supposed to look like,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s been a grind. I’m still learning. I think I’m going to be learning for a long time and trying to learn what a mother does. They’re special people,” he said. “Trying to be a mother and father.”

Aly Jenkins is pictured with Scott, son Brady and daughter Avery. A year ago, the 30-year-old competitive curler died from complications giving birth to their third child, Sydney. (Photo courtesy of the Jenkins family)

In the early, dark days and still today, it’s Scott’s three kids who keep him going. 

“They help me wake up every day,” he said. “They cheer me up.

“The hardest part is when they go to bed because that’s when Aly and I would have a hot tub or a glass of wine. Watch a show and hang out. So during the day I”m fine because it’s busy.”

But at night, when sun sets and the kids are tucked in, Scott plays over the 14 years together with Aly. They met at a golf tournament in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan in Grade 11 and fell instantly in love.

“We had the best life in the world. Everything was perfect,” Scott said. “And then you get sent to rock bottom pretty quickly .You don’t really know what rock bottom is until you hit it.”

Brady, Sydney and Avery share a happy moment. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Everywhere Scott turns in his new home he can still hear Aly. 

“If I’m doing something stupid and mess up the bottle or something around the kitchen or Brady is crying, I can hear her say ‘do this or go give him a bath,'” Scott said. 

“It’s weird what you hear. You just listen to those voices. She trained me well. Fourteen years of training me for this.”

Aly loved being a mom. Brady and Avery were everything to her and she was so excited to have a third child. Aly was a proud mom, physiotherapist and committed curler, who dreamed of one day competing in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. 

A competitive curler, Aly Jenkins dreamed of competing in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Submitted by CurlSask)

“She would have been training and practising like crazy. She would have been angry all these tournaments were cancelled because COVID is in the way,” Scott said, smiling.  

“It’s that time of year when she’d have a different jump in her step.”

It’s been the curling community who has rallied behind Scott and his family over the past year, and he wanted to give back to honour Aly. 

In September, Scott held the first Aly Jenkins Memorial Tournament with all of the funds raised going to the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, which provides hospitals with life-saving equipment for premature babies born critically ill.

The tournament, which he plans to hold annually, raised $ 10,000.

“It’s a big thing to keep her memory alive and do something good with it,” Scott said. “She was such a kind and caring person. Seeing the machines when we were in the [neonatal intensive care unit] and seeing how that saved Sydney’s life, it clicked a couple weeks after to start doing fundraising.

“Sydney wouldn’t be here without that help.”

Scott and Aly on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy the Jenkins family)

Scott, 32, has been on leave from his sales job with a construction company, making sure he can be there as much as possible for his three children. His family and Aly’s family have helped him through it all. 

But he’s worried about what life will look like once he returns to work.

“There’s nothing out there if a mother passes away to get their maternity leave. Aly would have had the option for 12 to 18 months. I was only given 35 weeks paternity leave,” he said. 

“She put in the time and paid into it. Why can’t it be rolled over to the father?”

Insurance has helped Scott pay the bills while away from work, but he’s hoping changes can be made to support families who have to go through the nightmare he has. 

“I hope things can change for future fathers who sadly have to go through this. It’s something you don’t want to think about. You have enough on your plate for a year,” he said.

WATCH | Tribute for Aly Jenkins:

The husband of late Canadian curler Aly Jenkins adjusts to life as a single father of three young children and travels to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, where the curling community is standing behind the family. 6:42

But this isn’t about the money. It’s about being the best father he can for his children. 

“I need to be here for them. I have to be home. I have to be there to raise my kids,” Scott said. 

One year later, Scott continues to put on a brave face for those around him, all while honouring a wife, a mom, a curler — his best friend.

“She was super woman,” he said. “We’re going day-by-day still. That seems to help. One step at a time. Take on the new firsts and seconds. Keep carrying on and trying and make it as enjoyable for these kids. Learn. Laugh. listen and help them become amazing moms, a dad, and friends.

“That’s what Aly would want.”

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CBC | Sports News

Northern Ontario curler to lead Team Canada into Youth Olympics

A young curling star from Northern Ontario is going to be leading Team Canada into the opening ceremony for the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 this week in Switzerland.

Lauren Rajala, from the Greater Sudbury, Ont., community of Garson, has been selected as the flag-bearer.

“I never thought I’d be leading all of Team Canada into the Youth Olympics and wearing the Maple Leaf. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Rajala said.

“I’m thankful for this experience at such a young age. I’m going to take it all in and take it with me and move forward.”

Rajala, 17, has seen incredible success in her young career on and off the field of play.

In 2019, she won gold at the under-18 Canada Winter Games as well as at the under-18 Nationals. She is an Ontario Canada Winter Games Trials champion and a Northern Ontario under-18 Provincial champion. Earlier in the year, as part of Team Croisier, she was inducted into the Greater Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame in the Chris Sheridan Family team of the year category.

At school, Rajala is an honour roll student and a three-time Lancer Scholar, a title given to those that maintain an 80 per cent or higher average over three years. In addition, she is a three-time curling MVP at school, the Grade 11 female athlete of the year and a member of student council and the Eco School Club.

“I’m honoured and humbled by this experience. And I feel like this is just the beginning,” Rajala said. “I don’t want this to be the last time I wear the Maple Leaf on my back.”

As the official broadcaster in Canada, CBC will provide daily coverage of the competitions from Thursday, Jan. 9 to Wednesday, Jan. 22 via the free CBC Gem streaming service as well as cbcsports.ca, radio-canada.ca/sports and the CBC Sports and Radio-Canada Sports apps.

In addition to live streams of the events offered through CBC Sports and Radio-Canada Sports digital platforms, daily coverage of the Youth Olympic Games will include real-time updates from reporter Devin Heroux, who will be on the ground in Lausanne to report breaking news and provide insightful commentary for cbcsports.ca.

78 athletes make up Team Canada

Canada is sending its largest-ever delegation to compete at the Winter Youth Olympics. Seventy-eight athletes from the country will be wearing the Maple Leaf as they compete in just the third instalment ever of the event. See below for the full list of Team Canada’s roster. 

The first Youth Olympic Winter Games were held in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2012. In 2016, the Games were held in Lillehammer, Norway.

Rajala was recently inducted into the Greater Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame in the Chris Sheridan Family team of the year category. (Curling Canada/Infinite Eye Photography)

Rajala will be accompanied by the Canadian delegation of athletes along with 24 coaches in Switzerland. The Games will be a completely gender-equal event with the same number of male and female athletes competing.

Team Canada features athletes ranging from 15-18 years of age. Of the 78 athletes, 24 are from Alberta, 19 from Ontario, 14 from Quebec, 13 from British Columbia, three from Manitoba, two from Yukon and one from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

“I’m meeting all these people from all over Canada,” Rajala said. “I’m so thankful and grateful for this experience.”

Rajala has been curling out of the Idylwylde Golf and Country Club in Sudbury for years. She was inspired by her father to take up the sport at the age of seven when she fell in love with curling. It was also right around the time Vancouver was hosting the Winter Olympics — Rajala was motivated to represent her country.

“I remember the 2010 Winter Olympics and Kevin Martin winning the gold medal. I remember the celebration and all the Canadian fans. That’s when I realized I wanted to wear the Maple Leaf on my back. It’s been a goal ever since,” Rajala said.

Rajala will be part of a mixed curling team assembled by Curling Canada to compete in Lausanne. The team opens competition against Russia on Friday, Jan. 10. They will be play five round-robin games before the playoffs begin.

Mixed Curling is one of eight sports athletes will be competing in during Lausanne 2020.

16 disciplines across eight sports

Nearly 1,900 young athletes aged 15-18 will represent more than 200 countries. There will be a total of 81 events in 16 disciplines across eight sports on the Lausanne 2020 program, including four that will make their Olympic debuts.

Ski mountaineering is considered the most radical new sport, while medals will also be awarded for the first time in mixed-nationality three-on-three ice hockey, a women’s doubles competition in luge, and a women’s Nordic combined ski event. The new disciplines are designed to reflect both innovation and gender equality.

The Youth Olympic Games also aim to encourage young people to embody the positive values of sport but also serve as an important part of their athletic journey.

Canada’s Chef de mission, Annamay Oldershaw, says while this experience will serve as a place to learn about sport and life, the team also wants to achieve success on the field of play.

“These Olympic experiences teach you so much. How to deal with regrets and joy and failures and triumph. All of it,” Oldershaw said.

“I want our athletes to believe in themselves. I want them to know that they are there because they were chosen to be there.”

Oldershaw, a 2008 Olympic swimmer for Canada, has yet to be together with the entirety of Team Canada — that happens on Tuesday when they will all gather in Lausanne draped in red and white for the first time. Competition starts three days later on Friday.

“Whenever you get to wear the Maple Leaf at an international competition is the greatest honour,” Oldershaw said. “I’m ready to be these athlete’s biggest fan and we’ll pour our hearts into this for Canada.”

Team Canada roster

Alpine skiing (4)

  • Sarah Brown, Ottawa
  • Louis Latulippe, Quebec City
  • Alice Marchessault, Ste-Anne-des-Lacs, Que. 
  • Mack Wood, Toronto

Biathlon (6)

  • Ethan Algra, Abbotsford, B.C.
  • Finn Erik Berg, Calgary
  • Lucas Sadesky, Vernon, B.C.
  • Pascale Paradis, Calgary
  • Jenna Sherrington, Calgary
  • Naomi Walch, Calgary

Bobsleigh (2)

  • Colton Dagenais, Foster, Que.
  • Emma Johnsen, Calgary

Cross-country skiing (4)

  • Derek Deuling, Whitehorse
  • Jasmine Drolet, Rossland, B.C.
  • Liliane Gagnon, Shawinigan-Sud, Que.
  • Sasha Masson, Whitehorse

Curling (4)

  • Emily Deschenes, Greely, Ont.
  • Jaedon Neuert, Winnipeg
  • Lauren Rajala, Garson, Ont.
  • Nathan Young, Torbay, N.L.

Figure skating (8)

  • Catherine Carle, Georgetown, Ont.
  • Natalie D’Alessandro, Toronto
  • Tyler Gunara, Burnaby, B.C.
  • Miku Makita, Anore, B.C.
  • Brooke McIntosh, Toronto
  • Aleksa Rakic, New Westminster, B.C.
  • Brandon Toste, Mississauga, Ont.
  • Bruce Waddell, Toronto

Freestyle skiing (6)

  • Skye Clarke, West Vancouver
  • Rylee Hackler, Calgary
  • Steven Kahnert, Vancouver
  • Andrew Longino, Calgary
  • Emma Morozumi, Calgary
  • Brayden Willmott, Collingwood, Ont.

Hockey (17)

  • Justin Côté, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que.
  • Nathan Danielson, Red Deer, Alta.
  • Dylan Ernst, Weyburn, Sask.
  • Adamo Fantilli, Nobleton, Ont.
  • Vincent Filion, Shawinigan, Que
  • Panayioti Fimin, Richmond Hill, Ont.
  • Conor Geekie, Strathclair, Man.
  • Cédrick Guindon, Rockland, Ont.
  • Matt Jovanovic, Toronto
  • Paul Ludwinski, Pickering, Ont.
  • Tristan Luneau, Victoriaville, Que.
  • Denton Mateychuck, Dominion City, Man.
  • Mats Lindgren, North Vancouver
  • Ty Nelson, Toronto
  • Matt Savoie, St. Albert, Alta.
  • Antonin Verreault, Mirabel, Ont.
  • Noah Warren, St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que.

Luge (3)

  • Kailey Allan, Calgary
  • Natalie Corless, Vancouver
  • Caitlin Nash, Whistler, B.C.

Short track speed skating (2)

  • Florence Brunelle, Trois-Riviéres, Que.
  • Félix Pigeon, Granby, Que.

Skeleton (2)

  • Hallie Clarke, Calgary
  • Ryan Kuehn, Calgary

Ski cross (4)

  • Marie-Pier Brunet, Montreal
  • Charlie Lang, Calgary
  • Jack Morrow, Whistler, B.C.
  • Sage Stefani, Rossland, B.C.

Ski jumping (2)

  • Noah Rolseth, Calgary
  • Stéphane Tremblay, Calgary

Ski mountaineering (2)

  • Ema Chlepkova, Calgary
  • Findlay Eyre, Calgary

Snowboard (12)

  • Tristan Bell, Aylmer, Que.
  • Liam Brearley, Gravenhurst, Ont.
  • William Buffey, Toronto
  • Andie Gendron, Calgary
  • Liam Gill, Calgary
  • Kianah Hyatt, Calgary
  • Kamilla Kozuback, Calgary
  • Bridget MacLean, Halifax
  • Juliette Pelchat, Whistler, B.C.
  • Seth Strobel, Calgary
  • Maxeen Thibeault, Montreal
  • Jacob Walper, Calgary

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CBC | Sports News

Daughter of Sask. curler who died in childbirth going home from hospital

The daughter of Saskatchewan curler Aly Jenkins is set to be released from hospital Tuesday morning. 

Sydney has been in a neonatal intensive care unit for nine days, following the death of her mother. Aly died from amniotic fluid embolism, a rare, often fatal occurrence, during Sydney’s birth on Oct. 20. 

According to a social media post by Scott Jenkins, Aly’s husband, Sydney Jenkins will be released from hospital around 11 a.m. CST Tuesday.

“All machines have been removed and now onto demand feeding!” Scott’s social media post said. 

According to his Facebook post, Sydney has been doing very well through her stay at the neonatal intensive care unit.

Support is pouring in for the Jenkins family after Aly’s death from the sporting community in Saskatchewan. (Aly Jenkins/Facebook)

Support for the Jenkins family has poured in from around the world. A GoFundMe set up one week ago has raised almost $ 150,000 in support for Scott and his three children.

“Aly’s celebration of life was on Sunday,” the most recent GoFundMe update said. 

“The building was packed as hundreds showed up to pay their respect. The fond memories shared, speeches given, and tears shed were a testament to the incredible person Aly was. She will be dearly missed by so many, but never forgotten.”

The Sandra Schmirler Foundation offered a donation of $ 10,000 in Aly’s name to the neonatal intensive care unit at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, which was matched by the hospital.

“Just as Sandra touched the hearts of so many, Aly was beloved by all who knew her and will be sorely missed,” a post by the Sandra Schmirler Foundation said. “Our deepest sympathy goes out to her family and her many friends.”

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CBC | Health News

Rare childbirth complication kills well-known Sask. curler

Aly Jenkins, a well-known Saskatchewan curler, died Sunday from complications that arose during the birth of her third child, Sydney. She was 30.

Family and teammates were told Jenkins died from amniotic fluid embolism, a rare, often fatal occurrence.

Sydney is currently in critical condition and has been placed in a neonatal intensive care unit according to a GoFundMe set up to support the family. As of late Tuesday afternoon, more than $ 84,000 has been raised.

As a curler, Jenkins competed at women’s provincials two years in a row. She played lead for team Team Sherry Anderson, which was one shot away from qualifying for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in the 2018-19 season.

CurlSask executive director Ashley Howard said the curling community was “devastated” to learn of Jenkins’ death.

“[She was] a competitor who absolutely loved to compete and had a clear passion for our sport, just a happy person to be around, a fun person to play against,” Howard said. 

Teammates Nancy Martin and Rachel Fritzler embrace after speaking about Jenkins and her family at the Nutana Curling Club in Saskatoon on Tuesday. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

“She’s someone who wanted to win, but she would beat you with a smile on her face.”

Howard said it takes a ton of dedication as well as help from family and friends to achieve the kind of success Jenkins did, especially with two young children to care for.

Those who played alongside her said her passion for the sport could not be matched. 

“She had the most incredible competitive spirit and like fierceness that I could ever describe,” teammate and friend Rachel Fritzler told CBC News. 

Another teammate, Nancy Martin, added: “She just brought it every time,”

Support for the Jenkins family is pouring in from the sporting community in Saskatchewan. (Aly Jenkins/Facebook)

Martin said she heard the same thing over and over when a few curlers gathered at the Nutana Curling Rink in Saskatoon to remember Jenkins — that her humour, her competitiveness and her passion for the game will be missed the most.

Martin said even as she was waiting for the arrival of her third child, Jenkins would message her with questions about a recent game or strategy on the ice. 

Asked how the baby is doing, Fritzler said she’s doing as good as she can be given the circumstances.

“She’s a little fighter,” she said. “I think she gets that a lot from her mom.” 

Howard said the curling community has been overwhelmed with support in the wake of Jenkins’ death. 

Others are also throwing their support behind Jenkins’ family. 

Chad Benko of Synergy Strength, a crossfit facility Jenkins attended, said the gym is doing its best to support her family. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

“I don’t think there’s any easy way to deal with these kinds of things,” said Chad Benko, who owns Synergy Strength, a crossfit gym in Warman, Sask. —  Jenkins’s hometown, about 20 kilometres north of Saskatoon — where she worked out. 

“The only thing you can do, is you have support around you, from all different facets.” 

He said the gym is asking members to bring cash donations and frozen meals, toys for her kids or anything they feel would help the family in their time of need. A meal schedule is being created to prevent the family being inundated with food right from the start.

Deaths during childbirth increasing

Dr. Jennifer Blake, the CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said deaths during childbirth are rare in Canada, but increasing.

“They’re increasing for a number of reasons. Mothers are older and have more medical issues,” she said. 

“We are seeing an increase in the rise of superbugs, we’re seeing an increase in mental health and mental health complications and disorders, and the opioid crisis has certainly contributed to maternal deaths in Canada and other developed countries.” 

Blake said amniotic fluid embolism is a rare complication that can kill healthy young mothers. Fluid from the uterus gets into the maternal circulation and causes a complete collapse. Its cause is unknown and it is often fatal.

Jenkins competed on numerous curling teams, including one that was one shot away from attending the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Submitted by CurlSask)

“It is an unforeseeable complication of pregnancy and the only thing you can do, if the mother collapses, is to do the kinds of life support that you would do with an intensive care unit, trying to hope that that will get her through the crisis,” Blake said.

“We really don’t have any specific cure or remedy. It’s really trying to keep the heart pumping and the blood circulated.”

She said the U.K. and the United States have brought about surveillance systems to report preventable maternal deaths, but the same system doesn’t exist in Canada. 

Blake said maternal mortality is reported differently in different provinces and the cases aren’t collected and reviewed. 

She said the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is working to bring about a similar system.

“In countries that have systems like this, they have found that up to half of maternal deaths could be prevented,” Blake said. “In Canada right now, we don’t have accurate data. The World Health Organization put the correction factor on our data, because it’s not reliable.”

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CBC | Health News

The perfect delivery: Being a mother and full-time curler not always easy

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. —Saskatchewan curler Joan McCusker could have never prepared for the guilt she would feel trying to balance the roles of new mother and elite-level curler.

It was 1993 and the Sandra Schmirler rink was about to win its first Scotties championship. McCusker played second for the team, all while trying to be the best mother she could be. 

She recalls having to leave the ice on a number of occasions during the fifth-end breaks to breastfeed her three-month old son, Rory. 

The team captured its first championship in February 1993. They were all elated. But McCusker was devastated because she felt like she had abandoned her baby. 

"I was so traumatized by that," she said. "I was going to quit because I wanted more kids and couldn't imagine leaving them again to curl."

McCusker's husband, as well as her team, pushed her to continue, reassuring her she wasn't the absent mother she thought she was. It got McCusker thinking about how many other competitive female curlers had young children at that time.  

"I had to do my own research to know," McCusker said. "There were very few members of female Canadian [rinks] who had children and continued to play."

The Schmirler team captured back-to-back Scotties titles but lost their bid for a three-peat in 1995. It was after that season that the team got together and talked about planning their pregnancies before the first-ever Olympic trials, ahead of the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan where the sport would make its Games debut. They wanted children but they also wanted to curl. 

"I feel that my team was groundbreaking in the fact that we wanted to have our cake and eat it too," McCusker said. "And at that point in time if you started your family it was expected you would quit competitive curling and take care of your kids."

Planned pregnancy

Within the span of a few months in 1996 McCusker, second Marcia Gudereit and Jan Betker all had babies.

"Jan and I ended up being pregnant at the same time and had babies in May and July. Marcie had Colin in December," McCusker said. 

Schmirler was undergoing procedures to get pregnant at the same time and in 1997 had her first child — the only problem was that it was just two months before the Olympic trials.

"Sandra famously gave birth by C-section in September of 1997 and we were in the Olympic trials eight weeks later," McCusker said.

Curlers Sandra Schmirler, left, Jan Betker, centre and Joan McCusker planned their pregnancies so they could successfully win gold at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

They'd earn the right to represent Canada and go on to win the first Olympic gold medal in curling.

"I swear our recipe for success for winning the very first Olympic trials was our skip having an eight-week old baby and the rest of us having babies," McCusker said. 

The team hoped to also represent Canada at the Olympics four years later in Salt Lake City. They mapped out what the next few years would look like. The first year was all about cashing in on their Olympic fame. The following year was all about having babies again. 

"It was the family year and then the plan was to get back to the Olympics," McCusker said. 

And they all delivered exactly on time. 

Schmirler, McCusker, Betker and Gudereit all had their next round of babies within six months. 

"We were training and laughing about our plans," McCusker said. "That's when Sandra started not feeling well. We thought it was pregnancy and it was cancer."

Schmirler would die of cancer in March 2000. 

Just a couple of weeks ago one of the highest-profile skips in the game announced she will be having a baby —Rachel Homan's due date is June 14. The timing of it is seemingly perfectly planned around the curling season. 

Canadian Rachel Homan, the top-ranked women's skip in the world, is expecting her first child in June. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

"It's hard to plan those things and obviously family is way more important than curling," Homan said. "When it comes down to it everyone on the team knows family comes first."

Homan's team is currently ranked No. 1 in the world and has won back-to-back Grand Slam events. She says she's feeling really good right now and has not felt any ill-effects from being pregnant.

The last event of the year is May in Beijing — the final stop on the Curling World Cup Tour. Homan's team will be playing by virtue of winning the first leg. 

"Thankfully it works out that I won't miss much of the curling season. I'll try and play as long as I can and I'm feeling really good right now. We're excited for the future," Homan said. 

"Beijing might be tough but we'll see how it goes. We have a full season in together."

Family first

Jennifer Jones had her first baby in 2012 at a time when there was a lot going on in her life. Not only was she becoming a first-time mother in the fall of 2012, but she had also undergone knee surgery. There was a lot to deal with and the Olympic trials in December of 2013 were fast approaching. 

Undeterred, Jones was a woman on a mission, playing the role of super mom and super curler. She would guide her team to an Olympic trials win and Olympic gold a year later. Her second daughter, Skyla, was born in August 2016. 

One of the winningest skips of all-time admits it can be challenging at times juggling being a full-time curler and mother, but she wouldn't have it any other way. 

"Your kids make every part of your life better," Jones said. "The biggest thing for me is that I want my girls to be proud of me."

Jennifer Jones and her husband Brent Laing, also an elite curler, have to balance their family schedule with their competition schedule. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Jones said her mother has been the biggest blessing in playing the role of babysitter when she's at an event — her husband Brent Laing curls with Team Epping and is at many of the same events. 

"It can be difficult," Jones admitted. "But our moms have been amazing. My mom is a superstar. She just had her 75th birthday."

Jones knows she's sacrificed some valuable time with her daughters while being on the ice, but hopes she can teach her daughters about going after goals  

"I want to be a role model for them and to know they should always chase their dreams. Yes, mom is away a lot but she's chasing her dreams and I want them to do the same."


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CBC | Sports News

Brad Gushue — the curler who might not have been

LAS VEGAS — Brad Gushue the curler — it’s hard to imagine the Newfoundland and Labrador skip doing anything else but throwing granite down a sheet of pebbled ice, making shot after shot. That’s how fans of the sport around the world have come to know him.

But there was a time when Gushue’s curling dream might have never transpired.

Ray Gushue, Brad’s dad, didn’t want his son curling. He knew nothing about the sport. It was all hockey, all the time. Besides, what Canadian kid grew up with dreams of being an elite curler, Ray thought.  

“I never wanted him to curl in the first place. I wanted him to play hockey. It’s what I wanted but not what he wanted,” he said sitting in his seat at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. 

Brad had grown up in St. John’s playing hockey and another season was about to get underway when everything changed. 

Mother Maureen said she’ll never forget the day they broke the news to her husband that son Brad was hanging up his skates for the curling broom. 

“It was in September, just before the hockey season,” she recalled. “Ray said he needed new skates and equipment and I said we shouldn’t waste money on it. I had known Brad wasn’t interested.”

Ray didn’t listen. He went out and spent upwards of $ 1,000 on new equipment for his son. He was going to make sure his son played hockey. 

“I think he might have went to one or two practices. And then Brad had a practice on a Saturday morning and Ray came home to take him,” Maureen said. 

Brad, 13 at the time, and his mom were waiting to tell his father he wasn’t going to practice that morning and wouldn’t be attending another one. He was quitting hockey. Sparks flew.

“I still remember him firing the hockey equipment down the stairs and cursing and swearing and walking off,” Brad said with a smile. “Mom had to go cool him down.”

Ray Gushue, left, and wife Maureen have been on quite the ride watching their son compete through the years. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Best decision ever

All these years later Ray calls it the best decision ever.

“His mom won as usual. Best move both of them ever made. I would have never seen as much as the world as I have if it wasn’t for this,” he said. 

Brad admits it took his dad a little while to warm up to the sport but is happy to see he’s come around — winning has helped.

“I still tease him about it. At that moment he wasn’t very happy and I was going into a sport he knew nothing about. Curling isn’t part of our family. My sister and I are first generation curlers.”

It’s approaching 25 years since Brad started getting serious about curling. His parents have been there alongside through it all.

Proud Parents

Today, Ray’s claim to fame is being known as “Brad’s dad”. He even has a shirt he wears with that on it. 

There have been great moments, bad moments and everything along the way. 

“I sit here watching sometimes and think, is it really my son?” Maureen said. 

She points the win at the 2017 Brier in St. John’s as being her proudest moment, right up there with his Olympic gold medal win in 2006.

“Last year topped it all. Winning at home,” she said.

For Ray, seeing his son win the trials in Halifax to represent Canada at the Olympics is his proudest moment, especially considering everything that was going on with the family at that time. His wife had been diagnosed with cancer just a couple of months before the trials.

“There was a lot of stress with Maureen battling cancer and knowing what she was going through. Brad was able to handle it all and from then on he just keeps handling himself so well.”

Making memories with family

There was a time when Brad didn’t have the perspective of what it meant to be on this curling journey with his mom, dad, wife and daughters. He was so hyper-focused on winning that everything outside of the game was secondary. 

Winning the 2017 Brier at home in front of the St. John’s fans was something the Gushue family will forever cherish.(Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

That’s all changed. Sure, winning his first-ever Brier and then another one this past March has helped ease some of the pressure. But Brad said he’s matured in the sport and life, and can appreciate it all in a different way now.

“Sometimes it’s not about winning but what happened with your team and family during the week of competition,” he said.

“When we look back on this in 20 years we might not remember a certain loss or win, it’ll be hanging out by the pool having a laugh.”

Now he will look to win a second consecutive world curling championship this week in Las Vegas. 

His mom, who helped pave the way for all of this since day one, has a good feeling about how it’ll finish. 

“He’s still got the fire in him. He still wants to win and really doesn’t like losing,” she said.

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'Anything is possible': Canadian curler Jennifer Jones eyes another Olympics

Winnipeg skip Jennifer Jones has won everything there is to win in the sport of curling, including five Canadian championships, a world championship and Olympic gold.

If there’s a curling bonspiel with Jones in it, she’s expected to win. So when she lost the Manitoba playdowns last year to miss the Scotties, after 12 previous appearances, players and fans across Canada were shocked.

Jones, though, might be the only one who wasn’t. In fact, she says it might have been the best thing that could have happened to her team in the lead up to another Olympic curling trials, running Dec. 2-10 in Ottawa. The men’s and women’s winners will represent Canada in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

“I don’t know if it reignited anything because I believe we always have that fierce competitive fire,” Jones said. “It just allowed us an opportunity to have time during the season which we never have.”

Jennifer Jones wins 2nd straight Grand Slam of Curling event1:02

Instead of panicking, Jones and her team of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen packed their bags and headed to the Caribbean for a team holiday. At a time of year they’d normally be on the ice, they were soaking up the sun on the beach.

“It was the first time we’ve ever done that,” Jones said. “We really regrouped and started our prep for this year as soon as provincials were over. In a way, we felt we really got a head start on this upcoming year and believe that we’re in a good spot.”

They were relaxing, but they were also going over what they needed to do to get back to the top of their game, a process that started quite a while ago.

‘Mapping it out’

“I think we’ve been kind of mapping it out for the last four years, to what you want that to look like and how you want to be able to try to perform to your best that week.”

And so far, it’s gone according to plan.

Jones’s team has won the last two Grand Slam events heading into this weekend’s Roar of the Rings.

She’ll have some serious competition there, including three-time Canadian champion and current world champion Rachel Homan. But at this point in her career, nothing really seems to faze Jones.

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Jones, along with teammates Jill Officer, centre, Dawn McEwen, right and Kaitlyn Lawes (not pictured) took a sunny regroup together earlier this year after missing the Scotties. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

“I think every team there believes they have that winning formula right now and we hope that we do as well,” she said. “We’ve done it before so hopefully that is one of the small little advantages that we can take into this Olympic trials.”

There was a time when Jones was consumed by curling, but now she’s the mother two young daughters, five-year-old Isabella and one-year-old Skyla. It’s providing her a different perspective not only on the game, but on life as well. 

“All I want them to know is that they can achieve anything and they can dream anything and it’s the path along the way that really makes life worth living,” she said.

Late last year, Jones, with husband Brent Laing and the girls, moved to Horseshoe Valley near Barrie, Ont. Laing is no stranger to elite curling. He’s won three Canadian and world titles over the years. It’s a curling household.

“He’s my biggest fan and a big reason that I believe I was able to perform at the Olympics,” Jones said. “Brent has made me such a better curler. He has given me just a great outlook on life, a great outlook on curling and he was there for me like a rock at the Olympics.”

And should Jones and her team fail to qualify getting to the Olympics, Jones has a second opportunity by virtue of playing mixed doubles with Laing. The two could potentially compete at the Games together .

“I don’t find it challenging to play with my husband because we have always have talked curling. We’ve practised together all the time too,” Jones said. “I love mixed doubles. It’s such a fast moving, aggressive style of game. And then I had the opportunity to play with the love of my life.”

Jones wants her love of curling and excellence in the sport to prove to her daughters they can be anything they want in to be in life. She’s constantly reminding of them of this message. And so when her birthday rolled around this summer, she received a surprise she could have never imagined.

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Jones shares a hug with husband Brent Laing, and daughter Isabella. Laing is also a curler and the pair compete in mixed doubles. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“Isabella composed a song and everybody had to say something special about me and what she said was that anything is possible. That’s what she knows about me because I tell her that anything is possible all the time,” Jones said.

And that’s what’s driving Jones to get back to the Olympics now. She hopes to also be a role model for many more women in sport.

“Hopefully I can inspire some young people to try and chase their dreams whatever it may be.”

Should Jones win the trials in Ottawa to earn the right to represent Canada in February, she’ll become the first skip in this country’s curling history to lead a women’s team back to the Olympics. In 2014, Jones went undefeated to capture gold for Canada in Sochi.

Life-changing moment

“It’s really hard to put into words what it’s like to win an Olympic gold medal and the pride that you feel,” she said.

When Jones reflects back on her career, she gets lost for words when trying to describe how this all came to be. She says she was a shy, young girl from Winnipeg who wanted to be the best at everything she did. She fell in love with curling and has carved out a career playing the sport. 

“I had dreams and goals but to have it actually come to fruition and to do it with my amazing teammates who are just the greatest people is remarkable,” she said. “If you can stand on top of an Olympic podium at any moment in time it is a life-changing moment.” 

And she wants to do it again, for her teammates, for her husband, for her daughters. 

“Through all of this, through all the curling, through all the sacrifice that we have made, if my little girls come out of this knowing that anything is possible, it’s all been worth it.

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