Gushue rink takes Torino gold
The Brad Gushue rink won the curling final – and history-making gold medals – at the Torino Olympics, with a spectacular 10-4 victory Friday over Finland.
Unable to overcome the Canadian lead, Finland conceded the match after eight ends at the final in Pinerolo, Italy, just outside Turin.
"What a game, what a week, what a year," said Gushue, 25, who curls from St. John's.
Gushue's rink includes second Russ Howard, third Mark Nichols and lead Jamie Korab, with alternate Mike Adam and coach Toby McDonald.
They become the first Canadian men to win Olympic curling gold, and the first Newfoundland and Labrador-based athletes to win Olympic gold ever.
One of Gushue's first actions after winning was to phone his mother Maureen, who is recovering from cancer treatments and could not travel with her family to Italy.
Choking back tears, Gushue said he was stunned by the support his rink received from home during the tournament.
"I feel like a sook," he joked as he brushed his eyes.
"I just want to say thanks. The support has been overwhelming," the St. John's curler said minutes after his victory.
Watching the game at home, Maureen Gushue held back tears as she watched her son try to call her.
"I'm so happy … There's going to be a lot of tears at the airport," she said.
Canada gained an early edge in the match, but cleared its way to victory by picking up six points in the sixth end alone.
The rally was sparked by a spectacular shot by third Mark Nichols, who knocked three Finnish stones in opposing directions, while avoiding a Canadian rock on the button.
"It's just one of those shots that felt good … We were lucky enough to make it," said Nichols, the rink's third, whose accuracy rate was nearly perfect during the game.
"It was about time I curled that well. These guys have been holding me in all week. It's about time I played a couple of good games."
Mile One Stadium is packed with curling fans who came to watch the match, as Gushue and his team aim to become the first Canadian men to win curling gold.
Bars, schools, shopping centres, businesses, public institutions and even municipal depots were among the places where fans could be seen crowding around televisions.
Excitement about the match has been so high that Education Minister Joan Burke cancelled school classes, so children can watch the whole match without having to leave to catch a school bus during the final ends.
Gushue said earlier the key to victory would be staying ahead of Finnish skip Markku Uusipaavalniemi, whose rink narrowly defeated Canada in round robin play.
At Gushue's home rink, the St. John's Curling Club, the match consumed the attention of regulars.
"They're playing well, and they are playing well at the most important time," curler Andy Shapter said before the game.
"This is the playoffs and no one can beat them."
In Labrador City, home to Nichols and Adam, life also seemed to come to a standstill as fans anxiously watched the game.
Howard recruitment key
Gushue, 25, a two-time world junior champion, recruited Moncton-based curling legend Russ Howard nearly a year ago to boost his Olympic chances.
The chemistry between the two curlers has been fascinating to watch. At 50, Howard is not only significantly older than the rest of the Gushue rink, but obviously more temperamental.
There have been reports of clashing views during the tournament, particularly during the round robin, when Canada's record was 6-3.
After the victory, Howard toasted his younger teammates from Newfoundland and Labrador.
"When we first started, I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, am I babysitting?' or 'Are the guys going to accept me?'" said Howard.
"It's just a pleasure to be with them … I've got four of the best friends I've ever played with in my life."
A multiple winner at the Brier and world championships, Howard said the Olympic victory topped all of his achievements.
"Number one by a mile, baby," Howard said. "No question."
Adam, who gave up his position on the rink to make way for Howard, said the sacrifice was worth it.
"This caps it off," Adam told CBC.
"We're Olympic gold medallists, and there's nothing else I'd rather be."