CHATHAM, Ont. — You wouldn’t expect a 10-time Grand Slam of Curling champion to be surprised to reach a final.
Yet Brad Gushue was so unsure how his team would do at the Princess Auto Elite 10, he was scheduled to fly out before Sunday’s title game at Thames Campus Arena.
The St. John’s, NL, native not only stayed all week but also beat Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers 1-up in the men’s final at the match-play tournament.
“It feels good,” Gushue said. “I think this week we were obviously fortunate. I didn’t know what to expect seeing how Mark (Nichols, the team’s third) and I only got on the ice last Sunday.
“Low expectations. We actually had our flight booked to go out today, so we had to change that. To come out here and win against teams that have played two, three, four times, it’s good. But a little bit of luck. We had some fortunate misses against us and also made some key shots, too.”
Gushue’s foursome earned $30,000 for winning the $200,000 Elite 10, the season opener on the Grand Slam circuit.
Second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker are the other team members.
“I just love to curl with these guys,” Gushue said. “We have a ton of fun out there. We’re joking around, we’re ribbing each other. It’s fun. And I think the fact that we have as much fun, it keeps us loose in big moments like this and allows us to perform the way we have in these big games.”
Last season, they won three Grand Slam events, including the Humpty’s Champions Cup, and were the overall tour champions. They made history as the first team to win all seven tournaments in the series.
They also won the Canadian championship for the second year in a row, plus silver at the world championship after winning gold in 2017.
That busy schedule is why they started later than usual this season.
“I don’t think there was anybody in the world that played more than us the last two years, with the worlds, the Brier (and) we all made a long run into the mixed doubles,” said Gushue, 38, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist. “It was just a grind last year. We started mid-August and finished the first week of May.
“We just wanted a bit of a break, knowing it’s the first year of the quadrennial and we don’t have to wear ourself out this year or next year because that last year (of the Olympic quadrennial) and the year before that, there’s a lot of curling.”
One week before the Elite 10 final, Gushue practised for the first time this season. It didn’t go well.
“I don’t think I got a rock over the hog line the whole day,” he said.
It took only a few days for him to feel more comfortable.
“The last couple years with my injury and getting older, it takes me a little bit longer to get into the season and get the body feeling the way it should,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect. I was slow starting. I was a little bit nervous coming in here, but on probably Tuesday when we threw, it started to feel a little bit better. And then when we got here Wednesday, it felt good. At that point, I was hoping we’d have to change our flight.”
After the Elite 10, Gushue looks forward to the rest of the season. But before he got to Chatham, he was like a student going back to school. He didn’t want to see summer end.
“I came into this event hoping for more summer,” he said. “The summer, even though we took an extended break, it still felt really short after the last couple seasons, so I wasn’t too anxious to get back out on the ice. But as you play a few games and you make some shots, you’re like, ‘OK, this is what I love to do. This is fun.’ So, it’s nice to get that.
“We played against a lot of teams this week that are still new and still learning each other, so we had an advantage there certainly – the fact that we’ve played together so long and know each others’ tendencies. But then on the other side, it’s our first week on the ice. I think it all evened out pretty good.”
On Saturday, Gushue posted a 2-up win over Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie and Carruthers ousted Toronto’s John Epping in a shootout in the semifinals.
Epping defeated Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., and Jacobs beat Calgary’s Kevin Koe in the quarterfinals earlier in the day.
SLAM WIN FOR SWEDES
Anna Hasselborg saved her best for last.
The Swedish skip won the Grand Slam of Curling’s inaugural Princess Auto Elite 10 women’s championship Sunday at Thames Campus Arena.
Hasselborg beat Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni 4 and 2 in the final of the match-play tournament.
“The team played great today,” said Hasselborg, 29. “I think this was our best game so far this week. To do that in a final, it really proves the strength of my girls on this team. I’m very happy and I’m super proud to be their skip.”
Lead Sofia Mabergs, second Agnes Knochenhauer and third Sara McManus are the other members of the team that finished with a 6-0 record.
They won $32,000 of the tournament’s $200,000 purse and earned a spot in the Humpty’s Champions Cup on April 23-28 in Saskatoon.
Hasselborg’s rink was coached at the tournament by three-time world champion Wayne Middaugh of Victoria Harbour, Ont.
“This match-play skins format is new to us,” Hasselborg said. “We only played one game of that before coming here as a team, so we brought Wayne Middaugh in to learn from the best, and it worked.”
It was the first Grand Slam victory for Hasselborg, who’s starting her third season on the tour.
She had been a Grand Slam finalist twice before.
“It’s a big check mark for us,” she said about the win.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies