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He and his teammates expect to benefit from their recent work with junior curlers
Late last month, as he and his teammates prepared to wrap up the junior development camp they were conducting in St. John’s, world and Olympic champion curler Brad Gushue remarked, “As much as we gave to the kids, we got back just as much, maybe even more.”
It appears Gushue wasn’t just talking about the trade-off that saw he, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker share their knowledge and demonstrate their skills while soaking in the enthusiasm of the 12- to 18-year-olds, nearly 100 of them, who were in attendance at the Re/Max Centre.
The week-long, late August event also served as sort of an unofficial training camp for the Gushue team, which opens its 2019-20 competitive schedule today in Cornwall, Ont., in the AMJ Shorty Jenkins Classic, a World Curling Tour event.
“(The junior camp) was an opportunity for us to get on the ice much earlier than we would typically,” said Gushue, “and we are at the point in our careers, especially Mark and me, when that’s becoming more and more important.”
Gushue turns 40 next June, while Nichols hit the mark on New Year’s Day.
“In the past, we’ve played anywhere from two to four events without even practising,” he said. “You’d just fly off and play these events and you come back and your body would be hurting.
“This year, we were on the ice two weeks before our first event. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it.”
It’s not that Gushue and Co. were conducting full workouts during the camp sessions, but the on-ice work they were doing with the youngsters replicated, in a way, some of the things they do in practice.
“It was just an opportunity to get on the ice, to break in the body, stretch out the muscles.
“The first day I threw, I think, six rocks, then worked my way up to eight and 10.” Said Gushue, who will be throwing up to 80 rocks in a mid-season regular practice session.
After a weekend off after the conclusion of the camp, those regular practices began 10 days ago as the team prepared for the Cornwall event.
And while it is still officially summer, it makes for a later start than what Gushue and Co. have had in recent years, when they regularly travelled to Europe to open the season. A couple of years ago, they took part in the Everest Challenge, an August made-for-TV event in Fredericton.
The regular 2019-20 WCT schedule began Aug. 23 with the Baden Masters in Germany and there have been weekly events since, including the Stu Sells Tankard in Oakville, Ont., which has been part of Gushue’s early-season in past years.
“Now we’re sort of back to the sort of schedule we had a number of years ago,” said Gushue. “We didn’t want to start too early, but the other part is that especially as Mark and I get older, warming into the season will be important.
“If you don’t, it’s a hard way to reintroduce your body to the game after two or three months off.”
A total of 24 men’s rinks, divided into four six-team pools, are taking part in the Jenkins Classic.
Gushue, who has twice won the event (2009 and 2015), is in a pool with Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud, veteran Glenn Howard and Denis Cordick of Ontario, young Braden Calvert from Manitoba and defending Canadian champion Kevin Koe of Alberta.
The St. John’s rink opens with two games today, against Ulsrud and Cordick.