On the day after one of the biggest losses of his curling career, Brad Gushue Tweeted he was “heartbroken” to have come out on the short end of a 6-4 result to Mike McEwen Saturday night.
It’s not like Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker blew it in the semifinal of the Canadian Olympic Trials, knocking them from contention of representing Canada in the Olympic two months from now.
It’s just that McEwen, on this day, was really good. And Gushue was pretty good.
“We didn’t play poorly, we didn’t play great,” Gushue said. “And with the level that Mike played at, we had to play at an extremely high level, and we didn’t.
“That’s the nature of the Trials. You get a guy like Mike McEwen, as good as he is, playing at that level, boy it’s tough.”
It seems hard to believe that four years of planning, building for the Roar of the Rings and then, poof!, it’s gone.
Gushue had said prior to these Trials the pressure of the week-long event would not be as great on he and long-time vice Mark Nichols because they had been there, done that after winning gold at the Torino Games a dozen years ago.
“I’ll probably have two sleepless nights if we lose,” he said last month.
Still, in the minutes following the loss to McEwen, Gushue could not hide his disappointment, although he was the usual pro addressing the media behind sheet C at the Canadian Tire Centre, where his 2018 Olympic dream slid away from him.
“It sucks … it sucks,” he said.
Besides missing out on an all-expenses paid trip to South Korea, there’s more than $250,000 in Sport Canada, Own the Podium and Canadian Olympic Committee funding he’ll be missing out. Not to mention even more sponsorship money and other perks that would have come with an Olympic Games and, maybe, a medal.
But Gushue’s team can take comfort in the fact they were beaten fair and square in Ottawa.
Sure, there was the rough start, a 6-4 setback to Toronto’s John Epping in Game 1, a loss that could have derailed the Newfoundland and Labrador team before they even got on track.
But the curlers rebounded, and by mid-week were regarded as a heavy favourite, even though Kevin Koe was running the table.
That fact was reinforced Friday night when he beat Koe 6-3, the Calgary skip’s only loss in the round-robin, a couple of days after he dispatched McEwen 8-3.
“I don’t think this ends our run as a team. I don’t think that at all. This is one event, and obviously it’s a huge event, but if we turn around and win the Brier again this year, and Grand Slams as well, it’s still going to be a successful year.”
McEwen, from Winnipeg, has been a very good skip on the World Curling Tour for a lot of years, a consistent big winner on the money list.
But he’d never won the big one.
That didn’t seem to faze him Saturday night as McEwen was nothing short of brilliant, curling 88 per cent to Gushue’s 81. McEwen couldn't duplicarte that winning effort in Sunday night's final, however, as he lost 7-6 to Calgary's Kevin Koe, who scored the winning point on the final shot of the game.
Gushue and his teammates will take a little break from the ice now, reconvening in the new year.
He was asked if this loss ends a run for his team, which won the Tim Hortons Brier and world championship last year.
Gushue bristled at the suggestion, pointing out that he’s still the Brier champ, and will be going to Regina, Sask., in March to defend the title as Team Canada.
“I don’t think this ends our run as a team. I don’t think that at all,” he said. “This is one event, and obviously it’s a huge event, but if we turn around and win the Brier again this year, and Grand Slams as well, it’s still going to be a successful year.
“A lot of people put so much focus on this event, but there are a lot of other events as well. It certainly doesn’t mark the end of our run as a team.
“That said, we were gearing towards this so for the next couple of weeks, we’ll be shifting to what’s left of the season.”
Gushue has already stated the team will remain together, although Walker, from Alberta, will probably now fall into “free agent” status with his marriage this summer to Laura Crocker, another curler who plays out of Alberta.
Under Curling Canada rules, a team is permitted one “free agent”, that is a person who lives out of province.
As for sticking together for another four-year commitment to make a run at the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, who knows. Gushue was one of the oldest skips in the nine-team field this week at 37, the same as McEwen.
Then again, Koe is still playing at a high level at age 42.
Team Gushue’s next event is the Continental Cup Jan. 11-14 in London, Ont., followed by the Meridian Canadian Open Jan. 16-21 in Camrose, Alta.