No. 2 Brad Gushue

St. John's curler has been to the mountain top

John Browne jbrowne@thetelegram.com
Published on August 16, 2008
St. John's skip Brad Gushue waves to the crowd after his team won the men's curling gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Pinerolo, Italy. - Photo by The Canadian Press

Brad Gushue may be the province's most recognizable athlete in history. And for good reason.

Gushue spearheaded a curling team that made provincial history at the highest possible level by skipping Canada's rink to a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.

It's been one heck of a roller coaster ride since then, and although Gushue is quick to point out he couldn't have had the success without his three teammates, the skip's unmatched success over his still-flourishing career has earned him the No. 2 spot of The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's Top 10 athletes.

Brad Gushue may be the province's most recognizable athlete in history. And for good reason.

Gushue spearheaded a curling team that made provincial history at the highest possible level by skipping Canada's rink to a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.

It's been one heck of a roller coaster ride since then, and although Gushue is quick to point out he couldn't have had the success without his three teammates, the skip's unmatched success over his still-flourishing career has earned him the No. 2 spot of The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's Top 10 athletes.

As skip, Gushue calls his team's game and tosses the rocks that are usually the difference-makers in a sport predicated on making the big shot in the pressure situations. His attitude and cool demeanour under pressure in a local, national or world event has raised the bar for provincial athletes.

Gushue doesn't believe Newfoundland athletes are inferior to the ir mainland counterparts. To him, it's a matter of hard work and preparation.

The 2001 Canadian and world junior champion, Gushue holds Canadian junior men's records for most wins and most appearances as a skip. Still, he paid his dues along the way to Briers and Olympic glory.

A three-time provincial junior men's golf champion and the 1999 Newfoundland amateur champ at 19, Gushue gave up a promising career on the links to devote full-time to the roaring game. It's something he has never regretted.

The St. John's skip has been through controversy and has been the target of much criticism following changes to his rink after the Olympics. However, through it all, his focus has never wavered.

In 2002, Gushue was beginning to play against some of the best curlers in the world, including the likes of Kerry Burtnyk, Wayne Middaugh and Guy Hemmings. He was going up against the big boys and giving some of them a pretty good game.

"It's only a matter of time. I don't think it's too far away either," he said with confidence at the time.

At the Nokia Brier in Saskatoon in 2004 where he finished 8-4, Gushue told The Canadian Press when it was over: "I hate losing. You know I'm bordering on a sore loser. I handle it pretty well around other people, but when I get by myself I'm pretty hard on myself. I'd rather be on the winning side of it."

Defeat has never rested easy on his shoulders.

Gushue fought back tears when he fell short in his bid to reach the semifinals in 2004. He was the first-team all-star skip that year, but put the blame for the failure to advance squarely on himself.

"It sucks that I miscalled that last one and that's what really hurts the most. I let the guys down on that one and it's pretty disappointing," he said at the time.

Adversity proved a spur. Gushue would learn and he would get better ... and so would his team.

Although a world-class skip whose skill in unmatched in provincial curling circles, Gushue continues to have his ups and downs on the ice. It comes with the territory.

Tough loss

The Olympic gold medal victory was followed the following year by a tough 10-6 loss to Glenn Howard in the 2007 Brier after Gushue had taken a 5-3 lead.

Gushue had an opportunity with his last rock in the seventh to take a single point but opted instead for a double takeout that could potentially have scored three points. He failed to get past Ontario's guard to allow Howard to steal two. It was the first Ontario lead since the first end.

There were no apologizes for his decision making.

"I don't mind taking risks," Gushue told CBC Sports after the game. "I'd rather lose trying to win than lose trying to keep it close.

"We tried to win. We made an effort to win. It was in our hands to win and unfortunately the rock didn't react the way it should have."

No one doubts he'll be back.

At 28, Gushue is in the prime of his curling career and no one knows what the future holds for the country's best curler.

It's fair to say, he's an athlete who isn't limited by perceived insurmountable boundaries.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com




GUSHUE FACTBOX

Brad Gushue's curling record at Brier:
2003: 6-5
2004: 8-4
2005: 6-5
2006: (Did not compete)
2007: 8-3 (lost in final)
2008: 7-4 (lost tie-breaker)
Junior level
Canadian and world junior champion; six time provincial junior champion, five times as skip
Three-time national junior all-star
Gushue notable notes
"I've basically chalked it up to ignorance. They don't know me. They don't know what I'm like. They don't know what happened within our team. It's just pure aesthetics (that) they're judging me on. It's just people being ignorant and I'm not going to worry about those people." - On public criticism following the controversial decision to drop lead Jamie Korab.
"Everybody kind of made a little sacrifice. There were no egos and I think that's why it did work. After winning Olympic gold.
"This is pretty cool. I never thought I would have a street named after me." On honor of St. John's streets named after each member of the Olympic gold medal rink Jamie Korab, Mark Nichols and Mike Adam.



Selection criteria

The object: To select the 10 best athletes Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Seven prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy and John Browne of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Athletes must have been born in Newfoundland and Labrador and spent a large part of their development years within the province. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
John McGrath: A former Newfoundland soccer president, McGrath is chairman of the board of governors for the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
Brian Brocklehurst: A two-sport star in St. John's during the late 1960s and '70s, Brocklehurst was the 1969 St. John's athlete of the year.
Don Johnson: A former president of both the Canadian and Newfoundland amateur hockey associations, Johnson was also head of the St. John's Senior Men's Softball League and Royal St. John's Regatta Committee. He has served on the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and Canada Games Council.
Roger Grimes: Otherwise known as a former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, those in sports know him as an erstwhile Grand Falls Cataracts senior hockey player and Grand Falls Beothuks senior baseball player.
Terry Hart: Another Grand Falls-Windsor native, Hart has broadcasted local sports for over 30 years. He continues in radio today at VOCM.
Glenn Stanford: He's known most recently as the man who ran the St. John's Maple Leafs for 14 seasons. But before that, Stanford was a two-sport star - basketball and soccer - with Holy Cross and Memorial.
Alan (Tex) Seaborn: Seaborn has had a long-standing involvement with the Corner Brook and Newfoundland baseball associations. He served as vice-chairman and vice-president of sport for the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook.



Top 10 best athletes

1. TBA -Aug. 23, 2008
2. Brad Gushue
3. Alex Faulkner
4. Rod Snow
5. Carl English
6. Daniel Cleary
7. Frank Humber
8. Paul McCloy
9. Colin Abbott
10. Michael Ryder