Don’t compare me to Jennifer Jones, says Canadian curler Chelsea Carey

Chelsea Carey wants to be clear. She’s not trying to fill Jennifer Jones’s curling shoes.

Carey has been handed the skipping reins of Jones’s young team ranked second in Canada and fourth in the world.

Six-time Canadian champion Jones, also a two-time world champ and an Olympic gold medallist, retired from team curling earlier this month after the final Grand Slam of the season.

“I don’t feel comfortable being put in the same conversation as Jennifer because I think she’s the greatest curler of all time at this moment,” Carey said. “People keep saying ‘you’re going to try to fill her shoes.’ I’m not going to try because no one can. I don’t think that’s possible.”

Jones’s former teammates, all Manitobans aged 25 and under, chose Carey to replace Jones and to skip them to the 2025 Olympic trials.

Third Karlee Burgess, second Emily Zacharias and lead Lauren Lenentine reached the last two national finals with Jones.

Carey skipped Albertan teams to Scotties Tournament of Hearts titles in 2016 and 2019. The 39-year-old from Winnipeg lives in Calgary where she’s a marketing and communications director for KidSport.

Carey has curled out of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan during a career that includes seven Hearts appearances.

She didn’t have a full-time team in 2023-24, however. Carey subbed on various teams including Jones’s.

Carey skipped Burgess, Zacharias and Lenentine to second place in Edmonton’s Saville Shootout and the Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic.

She also skipped Michele Jaggi’s Swiss team in four tour events, and spared for Kate Cameron in January’s Canadian Open.

“After my last team split up, I purposely didn’t put a team together last year,” Carey said. “That was a conscious choice on my part to take a bit of a step back. When I did that, I assumed that I wouldn’t play on a full-time team the rest of the (Olympic) cycle, maybe end up as a fifth or just fill in. I had made my peace with that.”

She saw subbing for different teams as potential auditions for the next Olympic quadrennial.

“It was more just an opportunity to stay relevant in Canada for when shifts start to happen,” Carey said. “I wanted people to know I’m still around, but I’m not going to do anything until next cycle unless something extraordinary happens, which it has.

“You change your plans when something like this happens.”

When Jones declared this year’s national championship in Calgary would be her last, Carey waited until after February’s Tournament of Hearts to reach out to the team.

She knew in doing so she would set herself up for comparisons to Jones.

“It’s sort of the only thing that made it hard to do. No one really wants to be put in that position to be compared to her because she’s incomparable at this point,” Carey said.

Carey was given the nod after she was interviewed by Burgess, Zacharias and Lenentine.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around a game of curling without Jennifer Jones,” Carey said. “It’s going to come eventually, but I think it surprised everybody a little bit that it was now, so I didn’t expect that to be a vacancy.

“It’s such a good opportunity that you know a lot of people are going to be chasing it.”

Carey and company won’t know how many events they’ll play in their first season together until the World Curling Tour and Grand Slam schedules are released.

What’s clear is they don’t have to win a Manitoba championship to curl in the 2025 Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Under new Curling Canada qualification rules, Carey gets an early berth as the No. 2 team in the Canadian Team Ranking System behind No. 1 Rachel Homan, who will return to the Hearts as defending champion.

The top three CTRS teams not already qualified at the end of the 2023-24 season gained national championship berths. They’re all from Manitoba. Kerri Einarson at No. 3 and Kaitlyn Lawes at No. 4 join Carey and Homan in Thunder Bay’s field.

   This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

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