Road To The Olympic Games


Gushue stumbles out of gate at Brier

Brad Gushue's Newfoundland rink stumbled out of the gates at this year's Brier at 0-3, with two of those losses in an extra end. It fell 6-5 to Ontario in 11 ends Sunday afternoon.

Former Olympic gold medallist starts 0-3 while Koe lone undefeated rink

Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue lines up a shot during an afternoon draw against Ontario at the Brier on Sunday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Audio was not required for Brad Gushue's fourth-end meeting with his teammates Sunday at the Canadian men's curling championship Sunday in Saskatoon.

The body language of the skip and his curling team from Newfoundland and Labrador said it all when they congregated where the ice and blue carpet meet.

Tied 2-2 against Ontario's Glenn Howard at that point, Gushue delivered a few terse words while turned partially away from Ryan Fry, Adam Casey and Geoff Walker. They listened with chastised expressions.

It's been that kind of start for Newfoundland. Gushue skipped Canada to its first Olympic gold medal in men's curling in 2006.

His team was considered a second-tier contender at the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier behind Alberta and Ontario because of the elite curling experience Gushue has amassed at 31.

He's skipping his province at the Brier for a ninth time. Gushue's team was a runner-up in 2007 and finished third last year in London, Ont.  

But Newfoundland stumbled out of the gates this year at 0-3, with two of those losses in an extra end. They fell 6-5 to Ontario in 11 ends Sunday afternoon.

A new young front end playing in their first Brier, plus the move of Fry from second to third, requires Gushue to now be a teacher as well as a teammate.

Pre-tournament favourite

"There's times throughout the year where you have to be the teacher. You have to revert back to being a teammate pretty quick," Gushue observed. "That's something I've never had to do before.

"Especially in moments like this when they're not used to it and I am, sometimes I expect a little bit more because to me, this is exciting, fun, it's normal. For them, it's abnormal. They haven't played in front of 10,000 people before. It is an adjustment and it's going to take time."

Pre-tournament favourite Kevin Koe of Alberta was the lone undefeated team at 3-0 after the opening weekend.

The Calgary Glencoe Club foursome picked up a pair of easy wins Sunday with a 9-2 thrashing of Quebec and a 9-4 victory against New Brunswick.

"Our plan going out there was to play aggressive and hopefully get off to a good lead," Koe said. "Once we get up, we're pretty strong."

Manitoba's Rob Fowler won his third in a row — an 8-3 win over Prince Edward Island — to sit 3-1 alongside Nova Scotia's Jamie Murphy.

"Having been around these events a lot watching family play and curling with [former champion] Jeff Stoughton, momentum is a huge thing," said Fowler, whose mother Lois and father Brian both played in Canadian championships.

"If we can maintain that, it's going to be very helpful for us. We get a bit of a break now, just the one game tomorrow, and if we can use that momentum to get a win, we'll be happy with where we're at."

Murphy's winning streak ended at three as his Halifax foursome fell 8-6 to New Brunswick's Terry Odishaw.

Ontario's Glenn Howard, Jamie Koe of Yukon/Northwest Territories, Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs and Saskatchewan's Scott Manners were all 2-1.

Jamie Koe, who is Kevin's brother, beat both Northern Ontario and Ontario on Sunday.

"It's always good to beat one of the top teams in the world," he said after a 10-6 win an extra end over Howard in the evening draw.  

Howard played without regular lead Craig Savill who was ill. Howard's son Scott played instead.

Quebec's Robert Desjardins and B.C.'s Jim Cotter were both 2-1. New Brunswick was 1-3 and Prince Edward Island's Mike Gaudet was winless in four games.

Learning curve

Gushue and former teammates Mark Nichols, Jamie Korab and Mike Adams were all on the same learning curve a decade ago en route to the 2005 Olympic trials.

Adams agreed to step aside and become an alternate prior to the trials, so Gushue could insert veteran Russ Howard into the lineup for an experienced voice on the team.

As Russ Howard mentored Gushue en route to gold in Turin, Italy, now Gushue shepherds an inexperienced team on the national curling stage. Up until this season he had Nichols at third, but Gushue's long-time teammate decided last spring he needed a break from the sport.

Gushue predicted the day before this year's Brier got underway that his team could be "really good or really bad."

"It's somewhere in between to be quite honest," he said Sunday. "It's not really bad by any means. We're right there and one shot, we win each game. But it's not really good either. We need to get the really good going for the next seven or eight games."

Gushue opened the 2007 national championship 1-3 and still reached the final.

"We're not counting ourselves out," he said. "Definitely it seems like if it can go wrong, it's going wrong for us right now. That's a challenging thing. You've got to try and stay positive, you've got to try and throw the rock well.

"Eventually it all evens out. I've been around this game long enough that all it might take is one shot, one end and it can turn around."

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