Curling legend Jones ready to rock in Abbotsford

Colleen Jones has won nearly everything there is to win in women’s curling several times over.

Colleen Jones already owns a record six Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s curling titles. This week

Colleen Jones already owns a record six Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s curling titles. This week

Colleen Jones has won nearly everything there is to win in women’s curling several times over.

In light of that, it might be understandable if this week’s Canadian Seniors Curling Championships at Abbotsford Recreation Centre, being the 50-and-over age-restricted competition that it is, failed to truly whet the appetite of the Nova Scotian curling legend.

But Jones, a six-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner and a two-time world champion, couldn’t switch off her trademark intensity even if she wanted to.

“I really want to win this,” she said Thursday, after touching down at Abbotsford International Airport. “I’ve won a Canadian mixed, I’ve won a Canadian women’s. To add this, it would be awesome.”

Jones’s resumé, as it stands already, is amazing. Her half-dozen Scotties triumphs include an unprecedented four in a row between 2001 and 2004, and she won gold at the Worlds in 2001 and ‘04.

After a two-year hiatus from competitive curling between 2008 and 2010, Jones returned to the scene last season, only to be sidetracked by a harrowing bout with bacterial meningitis.

Jones contracted the disease – which can be fatal 15 to 20 per cent of the time – just before Christmas 2010, and her life may have been saved by doctors who were able to quickly diagnose her condition.

Jones underwent brain surgery in April of 2011 to repair a cerebral spinal fluid leak, and after a four-month recovery period, she returned to the ice with no ill effects.

“Looking back, the whole thing is miraculous, but at the time, it was scary,” she said.

“It put everything in a different perspective. Suddenly, you’re not worried about the little things. I’d like to think it’s mellowed me on the curling ice a little bit – maybe I’m not as intense. But I’m probably just as intense.”

Though Jones is competing at the senior level this week, the 52-year-old still has big goals on the non-age-restricted women’s scene. She’s reunited with Mary-Anne Arsenault and Kim Kelly – part of the rink that won five Scotties titles – and added lead Jennifer Baxter to form a team to make a run at qualifying to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Arsenault will skip, while Jones will play either second or third.

This week, Jones will skip a rink featuring third Nancy Delahunt, second Marsha Sobey and lead Sally Saunders. More than five weeks have elapsed since they won the Nova Scotia senior women’s title, and they’re raring get back in game action.

“We’ve been joking around – ‘Just six more nights, just five more nights,’” Jones said.

The seniors championships features 12 teams on both the women’s and men’s sides, and the women’s draw is particularly star-studded. Cathy King of Alberta is another former Scotties champ – she won the Canadian women’s title in 1998, and went on to win bronze at the Worlds.

Also in the field are defending Canadian senior champ Heidi Hanlon, an 11-time Scotties participant from New Brunswick, and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Cathy Cunningham, a veteran of 14 Scotties, including a runner-up finish to Jones in 2003.

The B.C. rink features skip Penny Shantz and third Debbie Jones-Walker, who won gold medals at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary when curling was a demonstration sport.

“The field is amazing,” Jones noted. “It’s different from the Scotties, where you know what your opponents are like. Here, you’re not as sure. Nobody’s traveling across Canada to play each other regularly.”

BIG-TIME EVENT

The Canadian Seniors represents the first major national curling championship Abbotsford has hosted since the Canadian Mixed in 2003.

In conjunction with the tournament, the Abbotsford Curling Club next door to ARC is being converted into a hospitality/entertainment venue known as The Patch. In the evenings, live music acts and DJs will be performing. Also onsite will be a silent auction, a pin trading table, and a display of curling memorabilia.

Tickets are reasonably priced, from $5 per game during the round robin, with a range of multi-game packages available.

The tournament features morning, afternoon and evening draws each day. For more information, visit the event website at canadianseniors2012.com. Semifinals run on Saturday, March 24 (women 2 p.m., men 7 p.m.), and the finals are on Sunday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m.