Physically, Brad Gushue feels better than he has in a long while.
And that has him feeling a little “anxious.”
The skip of the two-time defending Canadian men’s curling champions has enjoyed what, for him, was an extended off-season, and he’s counting on the extra rest and an adjusted training program to pay dividends when his rink begins its 2018-19 schedule later this month.
“So far, I feel great,” said Gushue, whose success of the past couple years — two Brier wins, a world men’s championship, and plenty of titles on the World Curling Tour — came while he dealt with a nagging hip injury, one that actually caused him to step away from the game for the first half of the 2016-17 campaign.
“The extra rest this summer had a good impact for me. As far as my daily activity, my workouts, my runs, it feels really good.
“But I’m a little nervous to see how it all translates onto the ice.
“Sometimes during the last year, it felt good off the ice, but there were times when (the hip problems) kind of came back.
“So I’m anxious to see how it is in the actually slide. As much as you can train, you can’t replicate the curling delivery off the ice.”
To help better prepare, Gushue has also made changes to his training.
“I’m not lifting as heavy, or I didn’t do anything too aggressive,” he said. “I guess you could say it’s a little more therapeutic, rather than strength-building.”
He and teammates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker have also cut back on their early-season schedule. They didn’t make what had been a regular trek to Switzerland for the Baden Masters, or enter either of two high-profile September events in Ontario, the Stu Sells and Shorty Jenkins Classics.
The Gushue rink’s first competition will be the Princess Auto Elite 10, a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, in Chatham, Ont., the last week of this month
“Last year seemed like the longest season ever,” said Gushue. “We started in mid-August (at the Everest Challenge in Fredericton, N.B.) and didn’t finish until the second week of May.
“With this being the first year in the new (Olympic) cycle, we decided to start a little bit later, almost six week later.
“But we’re still going to be playing a lot, so we wanted to give our bodies a rest and to get some time away from the game.”
Part of that still-busy schedule will involve a trip to Chongqi, China next month for the $100,000 U.S. China Open, an event that will help kick off the curling quadrennial leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“We could be going back to China in April or May,” said Gushue. “To do that, we’d have to win another event in Sweden.
“Over the next four years, there are going to be a lot of events and opportunities in China as they ramp up the support of the game.”