Brad Gushue proved last night at the Rideau Curling Club he's ready to play with the big boys.
The 23-year-old skip from St. John's, just two years out of junior, was all business in holding off London's Wayne Tuck in the men's championship of the Canada Cup East cashspiel.
Ranked as the No. 4 team heading into the tournament, Gushue trailed 3-0 early but rallied to win the final by a 9-8 count, crushing the No. 24-ranked Tuck's bid to stage a major upset.
WHOOPS IT UP
Gushue pumped his fists and let loose a couple of whoops after making a draw to the four-foot to score a deuce in the 10th for the winning points.
The win gave Gushue and his team of vice Mark Nichols, second Keith Ryan and lead Jamie Korab a berth in the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials next December in Halifax.
"I think you're going to see a couple thousand Newfies over there for sure,"said Gushue of the Trials, a tournament that will determine the men's and women's teams that represent the country at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
"We were gunning for this pretty hard all year for this event," added the two-time defending Newfoundland champ and the all-star skip at last year's Brier in Saskatoon, where he missed out on a Trials spot by missing his final shot of a Brier playoff game against Jay Peachey of B.C.
"This just makes up for the agony of just missing that shot last year," said Gushue.
The winners also received $12,000, while Tuck and his teammates, including Matt Paul of Ottawa, shared an $8,000 cut of a $98,000 purse.
Tuck lost two of his first three games of the tournament, but turned into a giant killer in his run for the final which included a string of victories over Guy Hemmings, both Glenn and Russ Howard, then Mike Harris in a semi-final.
"To tell you the truth, we weren't even thinking about a Trials spot coming into this," said Tuck, who competed as a skip at the 2002 national mixed championships. "We haven't even been putting any effort into it, so to take away a spot from (Gushue) if we would have won it, I would have felt bad."
RIZZO WOMEN'S WINNER
The news wasn't all bad for Tuck, whose wife Kim earned a Trials spot of her own, playing second on the Brantford-based team of Jo-Ann Rizzo, who beat defending Ontario champ Sherry Middaugh of Victoria Harbour 8-5 for the women's title.
Rizzo's team earned $12,000 with the victory, but had actually secured a Trials spot with a semi-final victory over Heather Smith-Dacey of Halifax because Middaugh, who beat Rideau's Anne Merklinger in the other semi, had earned a berth at the Trials during a previous event.
"This was such a nice win because you get more money, but we were so ecstatic with the (semi-final) win because it gave us the Trials spot," said Rizzo, who suffered her only loss of the tournament against Middaugh during the triple-knockout preliminary round.
Rizzo, whose team also includes vice Cheryl McPherson and lead Sara Gatchell, beat Marie-France Larouche in a quarter-final to get to the semi.