Stoughton captures world championship
The second world curling championship felt so much sweeter for Jeff Stoughton than his first 15 years ago.
The 47-year-old skipped Canada to a 6-5 win over a tough, young Scottish team to win the gold medal Sunday in Regina.
"At my age, it's pretty special to be able to do this," Stoughton said while clutching the tall trophy. "This is the best feeling I've had in a long time in my curling career."
Stoughton, third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and lead Steve Gould out of the Charleswood Curling Club in Winnipeg captured Canada's 33rd world championship since the first was held in 1959. They defended the title won last year by Edmonton's Kevin Koe.
Stoughton weathered a few tense ends against Tom Brewster's Aberdeen rink and took control in the back half of the game.
Stoughton and Gould won the world crown 15 years ago in Hamilton. Stoughton and Mead were teammates when they lost the 1999 world final in an extra end in Saint John, N.B. Only Carruthers played in his first world final Sunday.
Canada's experience was the difference against the Scots, whose average age was 25 to Canada's 38. Brewster, third Greg Drummond, second Scott Andrews and lead Michael Goodfellow were all making their world championship debut here.
The Canadians had more finesse shots in their arsenal. While Scotland occasionally lost their shooter on a takeout because they threw too hard, Canada executed the half-speed hits and freezes to keep the pressure on.
Both countries had to contend with quickening ice as the 5,800 bodies in the Brandt Centre warmed the playing surface and the ice. The curlers had to adjust their draw weight and monitor the changing curl in the ice, and Brewster was fooled by the conditions in the last two ends.
Canada trailed 3-1 after four ends before Stoughton's tricky hit to score three in the fifth. The hosts scored two in the eighth to lead 6-4.
Brewster's mistake in the ninth was fatal. He missed a peel on a Canadian counter to score two. The Scots counted only one point and trailed by one coming home without the hammer. Stoughton didn't have to throw his last stone for gold as Brewster's last draw to the house was short of the rings.
"It was probably the toughest game we played all week no doubt, and we've got this little puppy right now," Stoughton said, giving the trophy a squeeze.
"It's coming back to Winnipeg. It's not leaving my sight for the next couple of days. They can come to Winnipeg and pick it up."
Brewster turned 37 Sunday and coincidentally shared a birthday with Mead, who turned 44.
"Probably in a few months I'll be quite happy to remember it, but right now I'm gutted," Brewster said. "We gave it a hell of a shot."
Stoughton's team was stellar in winning the Tim Hortons Brier last month in London, Ont., beating Olympic champions Kevin Martin and Brad Gushue, as well as former world champ Glenn Howard, for the right to wear the Maple Leaf.
The Manitobans carried their performance into the world championship with a 10-1 record in the preliminary round. Their only hiccup was a loss to Norway.
Keeping emotions in check
"It may have looked easy, but I tell you, we were exhausted every night," Stoughton said.
Knowing they're closer to the end of their curling careers than the beginning, Stoughton and Mead said they struggled to keep their emotions in check during Sunday's game.
"It's hard. It's such a rush. The adrenalin pumps," Stoughton said. "You get emotional and well up a bit at the start of the game when they announce Team Canada.
"It's a feeling we don't get very often because we're just curlers."
Canada's back end was stellar Sunday as Stoughton's shooting percentage was 93 and Mead's 91.
Mead was born in Regina and says playing in a big game there brought back memories of his mother Penny, who died two years ago.
"I'd like to think she was out there blowing on the rock when it had to go a little bit further," Mead said. "I wanted this more than any game, any event I've ever wanted in my life.
"It was the toughest game I've ever played. We worked so hard and found away to pull it off."
With the success they've had this year, the Stoughton team intends to stay together next season, but they've yet to decide if they want to make a run at the Olympic trials in their hometown of Winnipeg in 2013.
There's no time for the champions to rest. They'll compete in the Players' Championship this week in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Sweden's Niklas Edin defeated Thomas Ulsrud of Norway 7-6 earlier for the bronze medal. Just under 100,000 people attended the nine-day event.
The 2012 men's world championship will be held in Basel, Switzerland, while Lethbridge, Alta., is the host city of next year's women's championship.
Saskatchewan's Amber Holland won a silver medal at the world championship last month in Esjberg, Denmark, falling to Sweden's Anette Norberg in the final.