I dont count myself amongst the legions of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have seen fit to vilify Brad Gushue ever since he and his teammates won their Olympic gold medal in 2006. In the wake of that truly historic moment in our provinces brief sports history, Gushue and company had mountains of accolades heaped upon them; a series of streets in the Southlands subdivision, a highway and a sports complex in Mount Pearl named after the team itself and for the provinces anointed curling God himself, an honorary doctorate from Memorial and the Order of Newfoundland. Wow. (Whats next? Canonization?) But plenty of people, each entitled to their opinions, have taken to tearing a strip of Gushue while leaving Mark Nichols, Russ Howard, Mike Adams, and Jamie Korab free of their envious wrath in whatever public forum possible. Everywhere from the CBC to radio call-in shows to our very own website. (In fact, Telegram Sports is regularly accused of being the most guilty culprits of the Great Gushue Glorification.) While I feel an doctorate and the Order might have come a little too early after all, these guys are still young with a long way to go in this sport the amount of abuse Gushue takes is completely unwarranted. At the same time, people in this province have a way of tearing down their own like no one else. Remember the Rex Goudie Canadian Idol phenomenon? There were as many people singing his praises as there were admonishing him for selling out. Fact is, there have been very few athletes from this province who can say theyve competed on a global stage and give the worlds best a run for their money. Honestly, I would say that curling on the World Curling Tour trumps playing in the NHL. (With apologies to our past and present NHLers). And with all that said, and acknowledging Gushue is simply one of the best curlers in the world, gold in Italy was luck more than anything else. Six points in an end is a remarkable feat in any match, but on the sports biggest stage facing one of the worlds best in Markku Uusipaavalniemi of Finland (a skip who defeated him in the round robin)... Im sorry, thats just blind luck. Sports editors account of the fateful sixth end tells the story... With his last shot, Nichols executed a perfect long raise double takeout, a high-risk toss that saw the Canadian stone hit a Finnish centreline guard about eight feet outside the 12-foot ring, which in turn bumped out a second Finnish guard just outside the 12-foot, and a third Finnish stone resting on the four-foot. The last ousted rock just shaved a Canadian stone sitting on the button as Gushue counted three. Uusipaavalniemi wrecked on guards on both his shots as Gushue, with last shot, stared at six yellow rocks counting. Gushue was heavy on his draw for seven. The remainder of the game was played for the sake of TV. Hmm. And here I was thinking it was Herb Brooks who orchestrated the only miracle on ice. Its easy to say, if Nichols hadnt made that shot, Uusipaavalniemi wouldnt have had as hard a time making his. But its just as easy to say the Finnish skip practically handed the gold medal himself when he choked. You see, thats how luck works. His was particularly bad, and in any sport, that generally works in the favour of the opposing team. So when the teams run at this years Olympic trials began, I didnt think the team was capable of repeating their success. And it had nothing to do with Howards absence or the all too-public team shakeups that sort of turnover really does happen all the time, just as Gushue and his mates have always asserted but more to do with the fact they havent been the best Canadian team since Turin. They were among them, but the Martins, Ferbeys, Howards and Menards have been just a little better, or at least, more consistent. So instead of wishing for the teams return simply because we share the same area code, I want the team that will best represent the Canadian Olympic effort to be tossing stones in Vancouver. However, for the sake of curling in this province and those involved in the sport will proudly tell you participation has racheted up since the big win nearly four years ago I hope the guys find a way to win this years Brier and stick together for a run at Russia in 2014. I just hope their luck hasnt completely run out.
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