Turin? Yes b'y

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Newfoundland skip Brad Gushue turned his thoughts to his mother after celebrating the biggest curling conquest of his career.

Gushue nipped Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton 8-7 in the men's final of the Canadian Curling Trials before 8,450 fans at the Halifax Metro Centre yesterday.

Maureen Gushue, 53, is suffering from bowel cancer and will start her second round of chemotherapy today. But she was in the stands here to witness her son become an Olympian.

"To my mom: your strength gives me strength and I love you," Gushue said on the podium following the match. "It means a lot because the last couple of months have been tough, obviously, for her. But she has been my biggest fan and her biggest concern was being here this week to support me. The fact that she put my curling that far above herself, I guess, is what mothers do.

"My thoughts have been with her all week and I'm just glad we won. I think it's going to make her real happy and we've just got to find a way to get her to Italy now so yeah, that's special."

Supported by third Mark Nichols, second Russ Howard (who calls the shots) and Jamie Korab, Gushue will represent Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Pinerolo, Italy, Feb. 13-24. They will also get $174,000 tax-free in Sport Canada funding over the next 2 1/2 years and a berth in the Canada Cup, to be played in Kamloops, B.C., Jan. 31-Feb. 5.

"This is a special time for all of us," said Gushue, 25. "This is huge now that we have four or five Newfoundlanders who are going to be Olympians, that's pretty special.

"Just the fact that you're going to represent your country is pretty special."

'Swim to Italy'

The veteran Howard was as giddy as a raw rookie.

"Lord thunderin' Jesus," laughed Howard after using his best Newfoundland accent. "It feels awesome. I tell you I could swim to Italy right now."

Gushue stole two in the fourth end to take a 6-2 lead, forcing Stoughton to battle back. He pulled to within two in the 10th end and was set up for at least two when a blown sweeping call by third Jon Mead allowed for a Stoughton stone to roll a quarter-inch out of the rings, Stoughton said. Gushue then made a raise-takeout to win the game, despite a measurement on that rock just to make sure.

Mead took the blame.

"You have to," he said with tears in his eyes. "I had it in the back of my head somewhere that it (Stoughton's hit) might be a little bit soft and I shouldn't have. I wanted to make a perfect roll -- so good because I wanted Brad to have to make that runback for the game and I just tried too hard.

"I tried as hard as I can and I missed the line call and it cost us. You never know, he maybe makes the runback-double but I would have liked to have seen him throw it with the game on the line. There's a part of me that is devastated for the guys. We played too good to screw it up on one call and to have it come down to that is really, that's hard."

Both lead Steve Gould and Stoughton absolved Mead of the blame.

"I don't think we lose it because they still have to lose in the extra end," Stoughton said. "So, you can't say you lost it there. There were a lot of other shots that could have been better so, there's nothing you can say about that."

But don't blame Mead, Gould insisted, threatening to punch Mead for even suggesting it.

"Jon Mead is the best player in the world," Gould said. "He proved that this week so, he's got nothing to hang his head about."

Mead praised his teammates.

"They killed themselves out there," he said. "We played great and I'm proud of them. We didn't lose anything. Those guys (Gushue) played a great game. They were fantastic today and more power to them."


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