Last trials painful for Stoughton

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

"No chance."

The words will haunt Jeff Stoughton forever.

The veteran skip used them when asked about the chances of Brad Gushue beating him in the final of the last Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings four years ago in Halifax.

"No chance."

If he said that this year, he'd be right. Gushue has no chance to get back to the Olympics having failed to qualify for the event, which begins Sunday.

Stoughton is back for another chance at age 46 and with Edmonton's Kevin Park, 45, at third, this may be his last chance.

Skipping Manitoba at seven Briers, including the one he won here in 1999 and another he won in Kamloops in 1996, Stoughton lost to Kevin Martin in the final at the Brier last year. He's a world champion but never an Olympian.

His third, however, was with Martin, finishing fourth at the 1992 Albertville Olympics when curling was a demonstration sport.

But when you think Stoughton and Roar of the Rings you think four years ago in Halifax and losing the final to Gushue and crew.

"For sure all four of us on that team from four years ago have thought about that more than we'd like to admit in the last four years," Stoughton said. "It was pretty painful. It was heartbreaking. We were so close to our dream. Just a few shots here and there. There were a couple of shots we'd liked to have changed."

It wasn't his first rodeo.

Stoughton was 5-4 in two previous Olympic trials and out of the playoffs. Being 7-2 in Halifax was a lot better, but it felt a lot worse.

"When you get to the final and lose, you almost would rather not make the playoffs."

Stoughton says there is no comparison in curling to any other big round-robin event.

"First, it's only once every four years. The thing which makes this different, and even more so now that we're down to eight teams from 10, is that there's no room to stumble early.

"In the Brier or the world championships you can go 1-3 out of the gate and still win the thing. You just can't get off to a slow start."

To be a top team for so long means you get another shot.

Stoughton didn't get to Edmonton direct like Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Kevin Koe and Randy Ferbey, but he did the next best thing.

He went bingo, bango, bongo to qualify out of the 'A' event in the Road to the Roar event in Prince George.

"It's the way you want to win it -- 1-2-3 and get out of Dodge," he said with a laugh.

So now he's headed here for his get-to-the-Games do-over.

"It's another shot. Whoever prepares and peaks at the right time is going to win this thing."

With Edmonton's Park added to the team with Rob Fowler and Steve Gould on the front end, Stoughton said coming within a game of winning the 2009 Brier was good for the new look team which used to feature Jon Mead at third.

"Kevin has played really well. It helped to go through the big game atmosphere at the Brier last year."

Having an Edmontonian on his team was a big controversy when they had Manitoba on their backs last year in the Brier, but it should have the opposite effect here.

"Kevin being on the team will maybe make us the team the crowd cheers for when we're playing Glenn Howard," he laughed.

Stoughton versus Howard is the feature match as the men's tournament gets underway Sunday night.

Stoughton goes against Ferbey on Monday and gets Koe and Martin Tuesday. Park won't give him home ice advantage in those three.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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