WINNIPEG - Jason Gunnlaugson's dream of competing in the Olympics for Russia is over.
The Winnipeg curler was informed on Saturday that his Russian citizenship application would not be completed in time for next month's European curling championship, thereby terminating his agreement with the Russian Curling Federation.
"Part of our deal was that we had to get citizenship, and if we didn't we weren't going to be able to make this deal work any longer," Gunnlaugson said Sunday.
Earlier this year the RCF hired Gunnlaugson and two other Manitobans, Justin Richter and Tyler Forrest, to become full-time curlers and potentially play on its team that will compete as the host squad at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Gimli's Patti Wuthrich coached the team.
Wuthrich will still attend the European championship in Switzerland, where she will meet with the head of the RCF to formally discuss the situation.
Wuthr ich, who could remain Russia's high performance curling coach, has been told by one of her contacts that it's "95% certain" the deal with Gunnlaugson, Forrest and Richter is dead.
The agreement, whose purpose was also to promote the sport in Russia, lasted only six months.
Aware of risk
It's believed the Manitoba trio would have earned close to US$100,000 each per year, plus expenses.
"It's disappointing," Gunnlaugson said. "Most people, when they lose their job they think OK, well maybe now I'll do what I really dreamed of doing. Well, that was what we dreamed of doing, going to the rink every day and working hard at getting better at the game.
"You couldn't ask for a more fun job for the three of us. It's obviously a big letdown, but s--- happens in life and I'm sure we'll all make the best of it."
Forrest and Richter both left good jobs to chase their Olympic dream in Russia, but they were well aware of the risk they were taking.
"It's obviously extremely disappointing for all of us," Wuthrich said. "We've worked extremely hard over the last three months."
Gunnlaugson guided his team, which also included Russians Alexander Kozyrev and Alexey Stukalsky, to the Russian men's championship earlier this month -- a feat they had to accomplish to keep the deal going.
However, the three Canadians needed to become Russian citizens before the European championship, which will take place Dec. 3-11. The process would have been simpler had they agreed to renounce their Canadian citizenship, but they weren't willing to do that.
"We always knew this was something that might happen," Gunnlaugson said. "It was always sort of a little bit of an elephant in the room, that we knew this process had to go through.
"We were doing every-t hing in our power to make everything else work, but it was always going to be a major stumbling block."
Asked why the RCF wouldn't simply wait for the Canadians to earn their Russian passports, Wuthrich assumed the negative reaction the Canadians received at the Russian championship caused the RCF to change course.
The citizenship clause, which was clearly stated in the contract, simply gave the Russian officials an easy way out, Wuthrich said.
Gunnlaugson, who went winless at Canada's Olympic curling trials in Edmonton last December, said he's not thinking about his next move just yet.
"It's kind of like anybody," Gunnlaugson said. "You lose your job, and you've got some things to think about, right?
"So the least of our concerns is curling in the next couple of months, and it'll be more whether we're going to each make a decision whether we're going to continue going through the process again for the next four years and with which teammates, because obviously that whole thing changes now."
Kozyrev and Stukalsky had moved to Gimli to be closer to World Curling Tour events, and Wuthrich is now trying to help them determine their next move.
The duo will still play for Russia at the European championship, joining up with top players from another Russian squad.