January 25, 2006
Team Gushue skip Brad Gushue from St. John’s, N.L., will represent Canada at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin.(CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Andrew Vaughan)
(CP) – Canada may have been the undisputed powerhouse in men’s curling for decades but that has not yet paid off in Olympic gold.
It has been an ongoing source of frustration for Canadian curling fans. Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., will attempt to remedy the situation when he takes to the ice at Turin, Italy, in nearby Pinerolo. He knows the pressure he will be operating under. “We expect it too. We know winning the trials makes us going into Torino as the favourite or one of the favourites,” said Gushue, who along with his team of Mark Nichols, Russ Howard and Jamie Korab prevailed at the Olympic curling trials in Halifax in December.
“You know we’ve already played a lot of the teams we’re going to be playing there and have had some success. If we keep playing the way that we’ve been playing I like our chances.”
Canada has picked up silver medals in the men’s competition in the two Olympics since curling became an official sport. Mike Harris was second in 1998 to Switzerland’s Patrick Huerlimann while Kevin Martin was runner-up to Norway’s Paal Trulsen in 2002.
Trulsen will be one of the other favourites going into these Games, along with former world champion Peja Lindholm of Sweden and Ralph Stckli of Switzerland, who won the silver medal at the world championships in 2003.
Rounding out the field is David Murdoch of Britain who lost the final to Randy Ferbey at the 2005 world championships in Victoria.
“We’re going to do everything possible to win gold,” said Gushue. “That’s been our dream for a long time, but sometimes Canadians fail to realize how good some of the other countries are.
Like hockey, says Gushue, Sweden, Finland and Russia can all ice good curling teams.
“Sweden and Switzerland don’t have the depth that Canada has but they do have some top teams. I like our chances but we’re going to have to play good – we’re not going to win by showing up that’s for sure.”
One of the strengths of the Gushue team is it has had success internationally. Gushue won the 2001 world junior championship and entered a couple of events in the past year, including one in Norway, to get some extra experience.
“We wanted to get over and play some of those guys and that helped. We played Lindholm and Stockli before,” Gushue said.
Howard, who was added as an extra body prior to the curling trials, has two Brier championships and two gold medals from the world championships in 1987 and 1993. The veteran, who will turn 50 while at the Olympics, said there’s always some additional pressure on Canadian curlers.
“When I went over in 1987 we had to win because we were the best country but things have changed,” said Howard. “I don’t want to come up with any excuses but Peja Lindholm and whoever they send from the other countries, those guys can play. A guy like Lindholm could play in this and make the playoffs if he gets it rolling.”
The addition of Howard has given the young Canadian rink additional confidence. Howard throws second stones but has been calling the games, leaving Gushue to focus solely on making his final shot.
“He’s incredible,” Gushue said. “A guy like that joining the team is pretty special. You look at our stats without Russ and our stats without Russ and you can tell the difference that he makes.”
> Canadian men’s Olympic curling team primer
(CP) – A look at the Canadian men’s Olympic curling team:
Skip: Brad Gushue, 25, born in St. John’s, N.L. Skipped at three Briers and won the 2001 world junior curling championship. Throwing final stones while Russ Howard calls the games.
Third: Mark Nichols, 25, born in Labrador City, N.L. Played with Gushue at all three Briers as well as the 2001 world juniors.
Second: Russ Howard, 49, born in Midland, Ont. Two Brier championships for Ontario in 1987 and 1993. Two gold medals at world championships in 1987 and 1993. Thirteen Brier appearances (eight for Ontario and five for New Brunswick). Calling the game while Gushue throws skip stones.
Lead: Jamie Korab, 26, born in Harbour Grace, N.L. Played in three Briers with Gushue and was alternate in 2001 gold medal world junior team.
Outlook: Should be a heavy favourite going into the event along with Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. Gushue has won a world junior championship while Howard is a two time world champion.
History: Canada has never won the men’s Olympic gold medal. Mike Harris (1998) and Kevin Martin (2002) won silver medals.
Quote: “We expect to go in as a favourite but sometimes Canadians fail to realize how good some of the other countries are. They don’t have the depth that Canada has but they do have some great teams.” – Canadian skip Brad Gushue.
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