So close it hurts

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Lead Steve Gould just kept breaking down, the finality of his dashed Olympic dream hitting home in the wake of the most devastating loss of Jeff Stoughton's illustrious career.

Third Jon Mead does not know if he will ever be back at the Canadian Curling Trials after his third trip ended in an 8-7 loss to Newfoundland upstart Brad Gushue in the men's final yesterday.

And second Garry Van Den Berghe announced plans to retire, possibly as soon as today.

"I'm not competing another four years, I'm done," said Van Den Berghe, 45. "Absolutely. If I finish out the year, I'll be impressed. I promised my kids if I didn't win here, I'd probably retire so, I'll wait and see.

"I just phoned and my daughter (Kendra, 14) asked me if I was going to keep playing. I told her she was going to have to take me to the Olympics, she's a great hockey player."

Although Stoughton has a bye into the 2006 Safeway Select, he may have to compete there without his long-time second.

Choking with emotion

"I've got to think about that," Van Den Berghe said. "If I had to say right now, I'd say no. I don't care right now, honestly. I played the last few years to play in this. That was my goal to keep playing.

"It sucks. I would rather have lost Thursday and gotten the hell out of town."

Gould could not believe they lost.

"It is (disappointing) but you guys saw it, we played as good as we ever played, right?" he said haltingly, his voice choking with emotion. "I'm sorry ... I just can't believe we lost ... We were a real team here this week and we were two down playing 10 and we thought we were going to win. We really did think we were going to win. Like, I can't tell ya ... I'm proud of the guys, very proud."

Mead, who blamed himself for the loss, kept wiping away tears as he doubted that he would be aiming for the 2009 Olympic trials.

"Four years is so far away and my daughter's (Sophia) three, and it's hard," said Mead, 38. "I don't enjoy the time away from home. This was so wonderful here this week, having them here and my mom was here to help them. We just had a perfect week for everything but the ending. It's hard."

And he may follow Van Den Berghe into retirement.

"This isn't a career and at some point, you've got to figure out what the priorities are," said Mead, who led all thirds in shooting percentage here. "There's no way I'm making any kind of decision today. I guess we've got provincials and all that stuff and we'll see where the rest of the year goes.

"It's probably the best curling I've had in my life and it's hard to even consider walking away. But it's hard to work that hard and not win. This is a tough one."

Stoughton, 42, was quite composed after coming so close to becoming an Olympian, only to lose out on a shot or two.

"It's very disappointing," he conceded. "After today or tomorrow, whenever, sometimes you get so close, it hurts a little bit more then. We were that close to winning it all and didn't get it. But we had a great week, the guys played fantastic and we'll take that if there's anything to take."

But will he re-set his focus for 2010 now?

"2010's a long way away so, we'll see what happens," Stoughton said. "But nothing definitive right now."

So, by the time this season ends, it will most likely be the last one four of the finest curlers in Manitoba history play together as a team. And there are very few foursomes on the horizon ready to take over at such an elite level.


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