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Gushue returns to Newfoundland after history-making Brier championship

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Six-time curling national champion Brad Gushue returned to Newfoundland Monday evening, after he made curling history in Regina and cemented his place among the sport’s greatest athletes.

Gushue became the first skip to win six national titles when he beat Mike McEwen from the Saskatchewan team on Sunday night. Gushue and his team have now won six out of the last eight national championships — known as the Brier — and have won three in a row.

“Those are impressive things, but to be honest, we never went in there (with) that being our target,” he said at the St. John’s Airport, just after returning to the city. “It was always just we wanted to win this event. We wanted to have a great week, we wanted to have that moment in the final and we did.”

The win cemented his team among curling’s best. Gushue and longtime friend and teammate Mark Nichols have both now won six national titles, an Olympic gold, and a world championship.

Only one other curler, Randy Ferbey, has also won six titles. He did so while playing different positions throughout his career.

“I think we’re definitely worth considering and should be in the conversation, but I think everybody’s going to have different opinions on who they think is best or who had the greatest run,” Gushue said Monday.

“My opinion on that doesn’t matter, especially where I’m right in the middle of it right now.”

Team Gushue cruised into the mid-game break on Sunday up 5-2. In the sixth end, though, he gave up a steal of two, giving Saskatchewan life again.

In the seventh end, facing new pressure, he made two critical shots to score two of his own and regaining a comfortable lead.

His team’s success wasn’t always guaranteed. Gushue won a world junior championship early in his career, and followed that up with a surprise Olympic qualification and gold medal in 2006.

But the Brier, the Canadian National Championship, eluded him for years. It took his rink 13 tries before they finally won their first, on home ice in St. John’s in 2017.

“They’re really hard moments,” Nichols said. “You talk to your family members, your friends about ‘what am I doing here?'”

“You’re spending so many days, weeks away from family. It can get really hard,” he added.

Gushue attributes his team’s run of success to that home-ice victory in 2017.

“We played with so much pressure during that week, and we knew that nothing was ever going to reach that magnitude,” he said.

“So when we go into finals now or go into Briers, it’s kind of like playing with house money… we still have that fire, but you don’t have all that pressure that a lot of other teams have.”

His team’s contributions to the sport in Newfoundland and Labrador are almost innumerable — so many of the province’s young curlers were inspired to start by watching his success.

His victory also means he will return to the Brier next year as Team Canada, and another team will get the opportunity to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the national championship.

Andrew Taylor said Brad Gushue’s history-making win proves Newfoundland and Labrador athletes can competed at sport’s highest stages.

Andrew Taylor had that opportunity in 2018, when Gushue was playing as Team Canada, and was part of a group that competed in Regina as Team Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Consistently, they’ve always given back. And they’ve always allowed players to go up to them, ask them questions,” he said.

“Mark Nichols, I learned a lot off him when we were at the Brier, and he showed us how to carry yourself.”

Gushue won’t have long to celebrate his latest accomplishment. After winning the national title, he will represent Canada at the World Curling Championship.

This year the event is being held in Switzerland.

“It’s going to be a quick turnaround. I think we’re going to probably take this week off and let the body rest up and recharge and then, you know, we’ll probably only have a week maybe to get ramped up.”

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