Tuning up for Olympics

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Life has turned topsy-turvy for The Kid from The Rock and his mates since the day they beat Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton in Halifax to become Olympians.

"We're just trying to get used to the change in our life," said Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, who arrived here yesterday to prepare for the Grand Slam's $100,000 BDO Dunwoody Classic Canadian Open, which starts at the MTS Centre today at 4 p.m. "Once we went back (to Newfoundland), everything was different. You can't go to the mall for a 15-minute visit. Everything turns into an hour and a half.

STRIKE A BALANCE

"People know who you are and are interested in what you're doing, and there's a lot of calls from the media and a lot of requests for your time. We're just trying to strike a balance and get to the point where we're able to prepare the way we want to because it is, possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Gushue, 25, third Mark Nichols, second Russ Howard (who calls the shots) and lead Jamie Korab will go for the gold at the 2006 Olympics in Pinerolo, Italy next month.

And Gushue was delighted when his mother, who is battling bowel cancer, was allowed to make the trip, too.

"We found out she's going to be able to go, with some precautions," he said. "She's doing well, she has a good attitude and that kind of made my day. That's going to make the week a lot more special knowing that my mom and my dad and my girlfriend are going to be there."

Now, Gushue can't wait to get back on the pebble.

"Getting away from it all is actually getting on the ice," said Gushue, who opens against Manitoba's red-hot Ryan Fry at 8 p.m. "When you get out there and play, you're in front of thousands of people but you're in a show and you don't realize everybody's watching because you're focused on the game.

"I'm very excited to get back out there on the ice, no matter what happens."

While the competition includes two other Olympic-bound squads -- Norway's Pal Trulsen and USA's Pete Fenson -- Gushue will be using the Slam event to break in off-ice personnel.

"We have some new members with the CCA and we want to make sure everybody knows their role and what's going to be happening," he said. "At the end of this week, we'll be meeting with some Olympic officials so, it's going to be a learning week for us. But first and foremost, it's to prepare for February. Having said that, it doesn't mean that we're not going to be gunning real hard and trying 110% every game.

EXPENSIVE TRIP

"We do have family members going and it is going to be an expensive trip so, if we can win a few thousand dollars to help get them over, it would be great."

It will likely cost each family member about $7,000 for flight, accommodations and tickets.

"And you're playing against great competition here and the more you play against them, the better you're going to get," Gushue said. "And it's always nice to get that notch on your belt if you can come away from an event like this with a win."


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