Brad Gushue is back at the scene of the scariest curling fall ever
St. John’s skip returns to the place of his Halloween horror
Sometimes, athletes have to fall before they can achieve greatness. In Brad Gushue's case, it was a literal fall — an infamous face-plant — that would turn out to be a turning point in his career.
The pride of Newfoundland and Labrador burst onto the curling scene in 2006, winning an Olympic gold medal at the young age of 25. He figured the victories would continue to roll in. But they didn't. His breakthrough in Turin was followed by years and years of getting close but never winning the Brier or returning to the Olympics.
Then came The Fall.
The gruesome scene, which happened on Halloween 2015, was worthy of a horror movie. During a Grand Slam of Curling quarter-final in Truro, N.S., Gushue squatted in the house to better size up teammate Mark Nichols' incoming shot. As the rocks collided and Gushue rose to his feet, he lost his footing and fell, smashing his face directly into the ice. On national television.
Watch the fall heard 'round the curling world:
The impact opened up a nasty cut above his eye and resulted in a concussion. Gushue was rushed to hospital, stitched up and, incredibly, returned to the game.
Watch Gushue pull a Willis Reed:
He went on to lose 5-2 to Steve Laycock but still had enough sense of humour to poke fun at his gory injury.
Watch Gushue make a pretty funny joke about his face:
The cut eventually healed, but the effects of the concussion lingered long into the season. On top of that, Gushue later suffered a groin/hip injury that bothered him for a long time.
The next 14 months turned out to be what Gushue described as the "toughest" of his curling career. There was even a period when he wasn't sure he'd throw another rock.
A lot has changed since then.
This week, almost three years to the day since that epic fall, Gushue and his teammates are back in Truro, shooting for another Grand Slam title. Many consider the team from St. John's to be the best in the world. In the time that has passed since their skip's face-plant, they've captured back-to-back Brier titles (in 2017 and '18), along with the 2017 world championship and several Slam titles.
In some ways, the Truro tumble turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Prior to that season, Gushue had never missed a game to injury. In the year after the fall he missed 47.
Looking back, Gushue says all that time away from the game he loves gave him a new appreciation and understanding for what he does. He'd always been a taskmaster, expecting perfection from himself and his teammates. But sometimes, he realized, that need for perfection got in the way of him being able to enjoy moments on the ice.
"Up until that fall, the only thing that provided some perspective was when my mom got sick," Gushue said. "Curling was everything."
Gushue's mom, Maureen, was battling cancer during his 2006 Olympic run. His tear-jerking cell phone call to her back home in Newfoundland after winning gold in Italy is one of the lasting moments of those Games.
Watch Brad phone home:
That experience provided some perspective, but Gushue pushed on and returned to his intense ways in the years that followed.
He's a husband and father now, and he's accomplished just about everything you can in his sport. Better still, Gushue is playing with an ease and freedom on the ice that he believes he never could have reached if it wasn't for that awful fall.
"I think it's made me grow as an athlete and as a person," he says, "in every way possible."