Gushue leads youthful Canada to curling title

Curling is a huge sport in Canada and yet the nation’s record in Olympic competition was surprisingly modest – Canada’s men had never won Olympic gold. Now, with Brad Gushue as skip, they came to Italy intent on breaking that duck.

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Gushue was a slightly surprising leader. At 25 years old, he was a young skip and his rink's victory at the national championship in 2005 had been against the odds. Most people had favoured the chances of the veteran Randy Ferby or the 2002 Olympic silver medallist Kevin Martin. Gushue, by contrast, had never taken part in a major championship despite winning two world titles at junior level.

But now, having become national champions for the first time, he and his rink had the chance to represent the country in Turin.

It was a young team. All of the members were under 26, with one exception – the veteran Russ Howard had been added as second. It was a masterstroke, with Howard lending experience and tactical acumen to his team-mates raw ability.

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Their early form was unconvincing, though, and Canada only scraped into the semi-finals after losing three matches. It came down to nerves at the end, with the Canadians having to win their last two matches to secure their place in the last four.

Others weren't so lucky, though. Sweden and Norway, considered among the favourites to challenge for gold, were both eliminated, with the Swedish rink losing a shocking six times.

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In the semi-finals, Canada faced the United States. It proved a tight affair, with neither team wanting to risk making the critical mistake. Only on the ninth end did Gushue produce a vital hit to earn five points, helping his team to an 11-5 victory.

In the final, Canada faced Finland, whose form in the earlier rounds had been extremely good. But their semi-final victory over Great Britain had also been hard won, and the Canadians knew they had a chance if they could exert pressure.

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And the pressure told. The final saw the Finns making a string of surprising errors while the Canadians played superbly. The crucial end was the sixth, when Gushue threw his stone clear through the house to win six points and put his rink 10-3 in the lead. From then on, victory was all but assured.

The Finns had no answer and, such was the margin that they conceded with two ends still to play. Canada’s men finally had a gold to cherish.