By Nick Faris
Nearly a decade after losing to Jennifer Jones in a national championship, Ottawa native Dawn McEwen is teaming up with the Canadian curling legend in Sochi.
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates,” says the Team Jones lead. “We’ve been through so much together and we have a ton of fun together.”
Not so long ago, it was different, with Jones as a rival. In 2005, McEwen advanced all the way to the Scott Tournament of Hearts final with her Ottawa Curling Club rink skipped by Jenn Hanna. They eventually lost the championship game to Jones, who connected on one of the greatest shots in curling history to win the match.
McEwen’s curling journey shifted when she headed west to Winnipeg in 2007. McEwen and Jones joined forces and quickly found big-time success, winning a Canadian and world title in 2008, two more national championships in 2009 and 2010, which also featured a world bronze medal.
The move also reunited McEwen with her now-husband, Manitoba curler Mike McEwen, who skipped his rink to three straight Manitoba provincial finals from 2010-12.
“We both live, eat and sleep curling, so it’s pretty cool to be able to come home and talk about our weekends, how we played and strategy about the game,” describes McEwen, who was married in Ottawa last summer. “It’s great having someone in the house who shares the same passion that I do. He’s just so supportive of us and excited that we get to go to the Olympics.”
McEwen also works full-time for Public Works and Government Services Canada, juggling her job and on-ice training right up to the final weeks before the Olympics.
“It’s been a balance I’ve been doing for years and years, but it’s a good balance – I’ve figured it out,” states the Colonel By Secondary School and University of Ottawa communications grad. “My employers are so excited for me. At this stage, it’s a ‘do what you have to do’ kind of thing.”
Team Jones claimed their Olympic berth with a victory at December’s Roar of the Rings trials on home ice in Winnipeg.
McEwen curled 88% in the championship match, spurring her rink past Sherry Middaugh’s Saskatchewan foursome and sealing their trip to Sochi.
“It’s a dream come true,” smiles the athlete who first cast rocks as a seven-year-old at the RCMP Curling Club. “It’s really starting to sink in now that we’re getting closer to the Games, but for the longest while, it wasn’t so real in my head.”
McEwen’s gain caused pain for the team’s top rival in recent years, Rachel Homan’s Ottawa Curling Club rink, who finished third at the trials. Homan got the upper hand on Team Jones on two occasions at last year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts to win their first Canadian title.
“It’s great competing against them,” McEwen indicates. “They’re such a great team, and we know we always have good games against them.”
Just before leaving for Sochi, Team Jones received good luck “Go Canada Go!” cookies from their top domestic rivals.
McEwen will often cross paths with the younger Homan rink when she’s home visiting.
“Whenever we’re back in Ottawa, we try to get back to the (Ottawa Curling) Club to throw some rocks, see some people and catch up,” notes McEwen, whose parents ran a local curling program throughout her childhood.
During the Christmas holidays, McEwen met with her former coach, Bob Hanna, who oversaw her initial curling success in the years before she moved to Winnipeg.
“He helped me learn how to curl properly and taught me about strategy and all that stuff,” McEwen highlights. “I owe him a huge debt with what I’ve been able to achieve in sports.”
The 33-year-old is now set to compete on the biggest stage in her sport along with skip Jones, second Jill Officer and third Kaitlyn Lawes. The rink’s goal is to finish atop the podium, which Canada hasn’t missed since the sport’s Olympic introduction in 1998 – also the only time the Canadian women won gold.
“We love to curl, and it’s a huge passion of ours,” signals McEwen, who’s making sure to savour the moment in her Olympic debut.
“We’ve been in so many fortunate situations, being able to participate in national and world championships on different occasions,” she adds. “We’re so blessed to be playing this sport and to have had the success we’ve had.
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