Brad Gushue leads Canadian team at world men’s curling championship

Gushue looking to build on Brier victory

EDMONTON — A most unusual season has turned out to be one of the more successful campaigns of Brad Gushue’s career.

The recently crowned Tim Hortons Brier champion is hoping to ride the momentum into the Ford world men’s curling championship starting Saturday at Northlands Coliseum.

His St. John’s-based team has used a variety of lineups right from the start of the season.

Third Mark Nichols handled skip duties while Gushue missed the first few months with a hip/groin injury and a variety of substitutes were called in to fill out the foursome.

Injury woes returned during the Brier as lead Geoff Walker was very limited due to a shoulder problem. The team adjusted on the fly with Nichols picking up the sweeping slack as needed.

“I think it just goes to show how versatile our team is,” Walker said Friday.

Gushue came through with a game-winning draw at Mile One Centre to give Newfoundland and Labrador a 7-6 victory over Kevin Koe. It was Gushue’s first national title and the first Brier win for the province in 41 years.

The performance also gave Gushue, Nichols, second Brett Gallant and Walker a berth in the April 1-9 world championship.

They were sporting Canada colours for Friday’s practice session and said they feel ready for the next challenge in a season that has been full of them.

“I think it really comes down to the last number of years of preparation that we put in,” Gushue said. “I think that we work harder than every other team out there. We put in a lot of time practising, we work on the mental game and we work on how we operate as a team and what we do together.

“I think that all paid dividends over this year with all the adversity and injuries and everything that’s happened.”

Both Walker and Gushue said they’re feeling strong and don’t expect their injury woes to be a factor. The team is rounded out by alternate Tom Sallows, coach Jules Owchar and national coach Rick Lang.

Sallows served as an unofficial fifth at the Brier and filled in at the recent Elite 10 event to let Walker rest his shoulder.

Gushue, who previously represented Canada at the world junior championship and the 2006 Winter Olympics, will open play Saturday afternoon against Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz.

Round-robin play continues through Thursday night. Sweden’s Niklas Edin, Scotland’s David Murdoch and American John Shuster are some of the other headliners in the 12-team field.

Koe skipped Canada to a gold medal at last year’s world championship in Basel, Switzerland. Canada has won gold 35 times over the event’s 58-year history.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press