Jennifer Jones’ Olympic winning streak ends at the hands of hot shooting Japan
Jennifer Jones had her 12-match Olympic Winter Games winning streak ended Friday at the hands of an aggressive, sharp-shooting Satsuki Fujisawa and her Japanese foursome that cruised to an 8-5 victory.
Jones had won all 11 games en route to her gold medal victory in 2014, plus the opening game Thursday at the Ice Cube in Beijing. But she ran into a buzzsaw of a team in Japan, who outshot Canada and didn’t give Jones any easy points.
“They had a great game and we didn’t put together eight shots in an end and they took advantage of it,” said third Kaitlyn Lawes. “We knew it would be tough to go through this field unbeaten so we will learn from this and keep going.”
Japan had control of the game through the first half, badly outshooting Team Jones, stealing two ends, scoring three in another and allowing Canada to score only once, a deuce in the second.
“We unfortunately got ourselves in a bit of a bind, we’re going to have some big shots coming home,” Jones said at the break. “We’re not getting our shots in the right spots and they’re making a ton of good draws.”
Team Jones was shooting a collective 69 percent and Jones herself was at 58 percent, although the vast majority of her shots were of a high degree of difficulty. The one routine shot she did have, a draw to the eight foot in the fifth, came up short and gave Japan a steal of one.
On the flip side, Japan was shooting 89 per cent and Fujisawa was a perfect 100 percent.
Some cracks began to show in the Japanese foursome in the second half. Fujisawa had her first miss of the game, a flash on an easy takeout in the sixth end, and third Chinami Yoshida flashed a take-out in the 10th.
Canada took advantage of Fujisawa miss to score two in the sixth to give them some life but Japan responded with two of their own in the seventh to maintain its four-point margin.
“They played amazing,” said Jones. “We maybe didn’t get our rocks exactly in the right spots. The end of the day you’re going to lose some games. It’s what you do after the loss, so we’re going to try to learn from our mistakes and come out sharper tomorrow.”
Team Jones, minus Jocelyn Peterman who joined them in 2018-19 to replace Jill Officer who retired, has an impressive resume that includes the Olympic gold, two world titles and six Tournament of Hearts title.
That didn’t intimidate Fujisawa’s foursome that won a historic bronze for Japan in the 2018 Olympics and came into these Games with a 28-12 record this season. Jones and Fujisawa have played each other 12 times in recent years, with Jones winning seven of those games. However, the Japanese foursome had won the last head-to-head matchups.
They play with unbridled joy and enthusiasm but they’re also great curlers who exert pressure on their opponents from the first stone to the final one. And they rarely hesitate to play high risk-and-reward shots that create problems for other teams.
Jones, Lawes, second Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen were on the defensive in virtually every end, facing three Japanese counters at some point in more than half the ends.
Now, said Jones, her team has to regroup and get back to winning, something they have done successfully throughout her career.
“We have to draw on our experience. It’s just one game …. If we have to sacrifice one loss so that we can go and learn and be better for the rest of the event it’s worth it. We’ll sit down as a team and figure it out.”
Canada had a sloppy opening end that allowed Japan steal one and the Jones foursome never really recovered. Misses by Peterman and Lawes left Japan threatening to steal three. Jones’s final-rock draw was over-swept but did reduce the steal to a single.
The veteran skip, at 47 the oldest Canadian athlete here, had to execute a perfect long angled runback to eliminate Japan’s stone buried on the button to prevent another steal and get Canada two in second.
It was the only time Canada was to lead and that lasted only one end before Japan scored two in the third before steals in four and five gave them complete control.
The Jones foursome is trying to get Canada back onto the Olympic podium after Rachel Homan’s team became the first Canadian women’s squad to not win a medal in 2018. They opened their Olympic schedule with a 12-7 win over South Korea.
Japan gave up two three-enders in an 8-5 loss to Anna Hasselborg of Sweden in their first game.
Japan and Canada are now 1-1 along with Sweden, Denmark and South Korea. Switzerland and the United States improved to 3-0. Russia is 0-2 and China 0-3.