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Jennifer Jones gets redemption with curling world title; U.S. heartbreak

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Jennifer Jones, arguably the most dominant athlete at the Sochi Olympics, insisted after failing to qualify for PyeongChang that her curling team was OK.

She was right.

Jones’ rink went 14-0 at the world championship in Ontario, beating the PyeongChang Olympic champions from Sweden 7-6 in an extra end in Sunday’s final.

That same Canadian quartet became the first women’s curling team go undefeated at an Olympics in Sochi.

Then, in perhaps the toughest Winter Olympic Trials in any sport in any country, they lost in the Roar of the Rings semifinals in December to Team Rachel Homan, which earlier in 2017 became the first to go undefeated at a worlds.

In PyeongChang, Homan’s team shockingly went 4-5, failing to qualify for the medal round. Neither Canadian men’s nor women’s team made the podium in PyeongChang after the nation had earned medals in every men’s, women’s and mixed Olympic event since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998.

This world title was even more emotional because it’s the last season this Jones team is playing together. Jill Officer, 42, is leaving.

Team Anna Hasselborg from Sweden nearly became the second women’s rink to claim Olympic and world titles in the same season after another Swede, Anette Norberg, in 2006.

“You’re going to make me cry when I think about it, I’m so proud,” the 28-year-old Hasselborg said. “We started this team 2 1/2 years ago, and now we have a medal at every single event we went to. … The best is yet to come. I’m young, you know.”

The U.S. had quite a tournament. Jamie Sinclair, who led the Olympic Trials final going into the final end but lost to Nina Roth, skipped a team that upset the Olympic silver medalists from South Korea by scoring seven in the ninth end to reach the semifinals.

Sinclair’s team would have brought home the first U.S. women’s medal from an Olympics or worlds since 2006 by winning either of its last two games. It was not to be.

The Americans scored three between the eighth and ninth ends to tie their semifinal with Jones but lost 9-7. In the bronze-medal game, Russia scored a pair in the 10th end to win 6-5.

“Proud of the team for coming this far,” said Sinclair, a 26-year-old at her first worlds. “We’ve come a long way in two years.”

The men’s world championship starts this weekend in Las Vegas. U.S. Olympic champion John Shuster‘s team is not competing as it did not contest the post-Olympic nationals while promoting the sport with off-ice opportunities.

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Nina Roth’s team wins Olympic Curling Trials despite gaffe (video)

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Nina Roth harbored hopes of curling in the Olympics ever since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998, when she was a Girl Scout.

It took nearly 20 years, but she’s now on her way.

Roth, a 29-year-old nurse from Wisconsin, led a four-woman team to win the U.S. Olympic Trials finals against Jamie Sinclair‘s rink in Omaha on Saturday.

Roth, the skip, plus vice skip Tabitha Peterson, second Aileen Geving and lead Becca Hamilton make up the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team. They’re all Olympic rookies. A fifth curler, an alternate, is expected to be added later.

Roth and Sinclair traded overtime wins Thursday and Friday, forcing a winner-goes-to-PyeongChang decider Saturday to end the three-game series.

In the ninth of 10 ends, Roth committed a hog-line violation that cost her the lead, failing to let go of her last stone before it passed a line that entered it into play.

“My heart dropped,” Roth told media later. “I haven’t done that in a couple years.”

But Roth scored two in the last end to win 7-6, thanks to Sinclair missing on her last throw.

One day when Roth was 10, and her mom was her Girl Scout troop leader, the troop tried curling at the local club in McFarland, Wis.

“I loved it and signed up for junior league immediately,” said Roth, whose dad was a recreational curler.

Roth showed early promise, winning two junior national titles. After watching the 2006 Olympic Trials in her hometown as a high schooler, she competed in the 2010 Olympic Trials when she was 20 (very young for a curler).

She has a tattoo of a curling stone and an American flag on her right foot.

Roth’s team is new and relatively young compared to the most recent U.S. Olympic women’s teams. They’re all between 27 and 30 years old.

USA Curling’s high performance program matched them together in June 2016.

“When I got the call that the HP team was putting us together, I was literally outside and put on my tennis shoes and went for a run,” Roth said. “I was so excited.”

Since, Roth and Hamilton regularly drove four hours northwest from Southern Wisconsin to Blaine, Minn., to meet Geving and Peterson for practices. They passed the time on Interstate 94 by singing along to early 2000s punk rock.

“Our favorite song, this is embarrassing, Weird Al [Yankovic‘s] ‘Albuquerque,'” Roth told NBC Olympic research in September of the 11-minute, 22-second epic. “Becca knows all the words already.”

Roth’s team lost to Sinclair at last season’s nationals but earned the worlds berth over Sinclair via better season-long results.

Roth’s team would finish fifth out of 12 teams at worlds in Beijing. Not bad considering the last three U.S. Olympic women’s teams combined to go 5-22 at the Games.

Roth curled Saturday with a reminder of worlds. A silver necklace in her pocket with a Superman emblem dangling from it. It was a gift from her 79- or 80-year-old grandmother.

“When I came home from Beijing, we took fifth, and just missed qualifying [for the four-team playoffs],” Roth said. “She said, ‘Nina, you played so well, I thought you deserved a medal.'”

Peterson, a 28-year-old pharmacist, is going to PyeongChang after being on the runner-up team at the 2014 Olympic Trials.

Geving, 30, made her first Olympic team at her fourth Trials.

Hamilton, 27, will be hoping older brother Matt will join her in PyeongChang. Matt is on John Shuster‘s team that plays a winner-goes-to-PyeongChang game Saturday night in Omaha (NBCSN, 7:30 ET).

The Hamiltons can also qualify for the Olympics in mixed doubles, a new event at the Winter Games. So can Roth with Kroy Nernberger. Those trials are in December in Blaine.

The U.S. has earned one Olympic curling medal, a 2006 men’s bronze. The best U.S. women’s finish was fourth in 2002. Curling was part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and every Olympics since 1998.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Great Britain are the world powers in curling.

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MORE: It’s all about family as curling Hamiltons vie for Olympics

U.S. Olympic curling trials women’s finals set

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It’s Nina Roth versus Jamie Sinclair for one spot in the Olympics.

The two favored teams advanced Wednesday to the U.S. Olympic curling trials finals in Omaha.

Roth finished round-robin play 4-2, while Sinclair is at 3-2 with one match left Wednesday night that will not impact the finals matchup.

The third and final team at trials, skipped by Cory Christensen, fell to 1-4, eliminated with an 8-6 loss to Roth on Wednesday afternoon.

Nobody on any of the three women’s teams has competed at an Olympics.

Every member of Christensen’s team is 22 or 23 years old, which would have made them the youngest U.S. Olympic curling team ever. But they came to Omaha as the lowest-ranked team.

Roth and Sinclair’s rinks will now play a best-of-three series starting Thursday afternoon with the winner becoming the U.S. Olympic team in PyeongChang.

Sinclair beat Roth in the finals at last season’s nationals, but Roth went to worlds (and placed fifth) because she had the better overall season.

“There’s definitely some for improvement; we’re getting closer and closer to our A game,” Roth said.

NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will air trials finals coverage. A full broadcast schedule is here.

In the men’s tournament, three-time Olympian John Shuster is guaranteed a spot in the best-of-three finals with a 6-1 record in round-robin play with one match left.

Shuster’s team will play a team skipped by either Heath McCormick or Todd Birr, who face off in the last round-robin session Wednesday night. Birr, the oldest curler in Omaha at 49 years old, must beat McCormick to force a tiebreaker.

The U.S. has earned one Olympic curling medal, bronze in the men’s event in 2006. Curling was part of the Winter Games in 1924 and every Olympics since 1998.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Great Britain are the world powers in curling.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: It’s all about family as curling Hamiltons vie for Olympics

Curling Olympic Trials Schedule