Gushue learned a lot at first nationals in Regina, returns in March as Brier champion
Brad Gushue's first appearance at a national curling championship was memorable for his team's unusual standings record and an interaction he won't forget.
Just 14 at the time, Gushue threw second stones for the Newfoundland team that went 1-10 at the 1995 Canadian juniors at Regina's Caledonia Club.
"I remember crying after just about every game because we got the (crap) kicked out of us," Gushue said. "So that's one thing I do remember. But really the big thing for me was I met Sandra Schmirler at that event.
"That was a lasting memory for me."
Gushue will return to Regina in a few weeks for the March 1-10 Montana's Brier at Brandt Centre. His St. John's, N.L.,-based side has an automatic berth as defending champion.
Gushue described his 1995 interaction with Schmirler - who died of cancer in 2000 at age 36 - as "certainly the bright side of that week."
"She was a super-nice lady," he recalled in a recent interview. "She had a ton of time for us. Back then, she had just come off a world championship (in 1994). I just remember her being really kind and taking her time with us.
"She told us to stick with it and keep going."
That first junior nationals experience helped fuel Gushue's desire to be a competitive curler, he said. The first thing on his to-do list after the event was to stop throwing second stones.
"I hated it," he said with a laugh. "That's why the next year I skipped. That was the last year - the only year really - I never skipped in my career. I knew when I played there that I wanted to be a skip. It was a frustrating week.
"I figured that I wanted to be able to call the shots and have it on my shoulders."
The official Newfoundland entry list at the competition had 'Bradley' Gushue at second with teammates Colin Josephson at lead, third Brett Reynolds and Ryan Davis at skip.
"He excelled fast," Davis said recently from St. John's. "He had a very clear capacity to read ice and to call good strategy. He rose very quickly in his teenage years."
Other notable players in the field that year were Territories skip Jamie Koe, Saskatchewan third Pat Simmons and B.C. skip Jim Cotter.
When Gushue returned to the Canadian juniors a year later in Edmonton, he guided Newfoundland to a 5-7 record. It was one of six career appearances for Gushue at the event.
He finally won junior gold in 2001 at St. Catharines, Ont., topping Manitoba's Mike McEwen 8-3 in the final.
Just five years later, Gushue won Olympic gold at the Turin Games in Italy. His first Brier win came in 2017 in his hometown of St. John's, and his first world crown came a few weeks after that in Edmonton.
Gushue successfully defended his Brier title in Regina in 2018. He beat Manitoba's Matt Dunstone in last year's final in London, Ont., for his fifth national men's title in seven years.
Dunstone and Calgary's Brendan Bottcher pre-qualified for the 2024 playdowns under Curling Canada's new pre-qualification setup.
The latest Grand Slam title for Rachel Homan has pushed her Ottawa-based team closer to top-ranked Silvana Tirinzoni in the world women's curling rankings.
Homan gained 75 points after beating the Swiss side 5-4 in the Co-op Canadian Open final last week in Red Deer, Alta.
Tirinzoni, from Switzerland, leads the standings with 366.3 points. Homan is next with 343.8 and South Korea's Eun ji Gim is third at 313.5.
Italy's Joel Retornaz (393.4) remains No. 1 in the men's race. Scotland's Bruce Mouat (345.5) beat Brendan Bottcher 6-5 in the Canadian Open men's final but remains a few points behind the second-ranked Calgary side (351.8).
The 18-team field will soon be finalized for next month's Canadian women's curling championship.
Eight provincial championships are set to be completed over the coming days. The winners in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador will earn spots at the Feb. 16-25 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary.
Two berths will also be reserved for the highest-ranked teams in the Canadian rankings that don't win provincial or territorial championships. The second spot was added after Nunavut's recent decision to withdraw from this year's Hearts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.
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