Tears of joy on The Rock

HALIFAX -- Three words.

"Lor T'under'in Jay-zuz (Lord Thunderin' Jesus)!" said Russ Howard, the newest Newfoundlander.

That's Newfoundlander for "Yes! Yes! Yes!", which happened to be the three words Brad Gushue shouted when he made the shot which made him an Olympian.

"I could swim to Italy right now," said Howard when he walked off the ice, a 50-year-old Olympian on his birthday Feb. 17, when Canada plays New Zealand.

Howard is an add-on to the Gushue crew, which is now Team Canada for the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games in curling.

You could debate how good a team Canada is sending to Turin, considering the teams staying home, but you can't deny how good a story we're sending over.

MORE TO IT

There was more to Gushue winning this for the old skip, who took time to console him after a loss when he was a kid. It was, he said, inspiration from his mother who refused to allow her son to quit this year when it was discovered she had cancer.

Maureen Gushue, 53, was in the stands here yesterday along with Brad's dad Ray.

Ray had "Brad's Dad" written on an orange t-shirt and it ended up being shown on the scoreboard, causing his son to react in pretend embarrassment for the TV cameras.

Maureen had surgery for bowel cancer on Sept 2 and has gone through chemo. She returns to St. John's today for another round of chemotherapy.

She'd watched Gushue's first game against Jeff Stoughton, but left on the fifth-end break because she wasn't feeling well, missing a spectacular shot by Brad to win 7-4.

But she watched this one all the way.

"It meant a lot," she said.

She even figures she might have contributed something.

"Was I an inspiration? Yes, I hope so."

Together, she hopes, they can inspire each other further.

"Italy? I'm hoping."

Brad said he has to find a way.

"My mother is my biggest fan. She wanted me to focus on curling, not on her health. I guess that's what mothers do. I'm really hoping we can get her to Italy, too."

But Gushue wasn't just curling for his mom here yesterday. He was curling for Newfoundland, knowing if he won he'd become the biggest sports story in the history of The Rock.

"That's just huge," said Gushue, who said he could only imagine what it must have been like last night on George Street in St. John's.

"What a feeling," said Gushue. "What an incredible week. I told you guys a big lie yesterday about how calm I was. I was nervous as hell. I was really tense."

So much is going to be made about Howard, becoming an Olympian at the end of his career - maybe the oldest Olympian on the property in Turin.

"There can't be anybody older than me. Hopefully they'll be curling against us if there are," said Howard.

But when they walked off the ice here last night prior to the medal presentations, the guy whose eyes were flooded with tears was Mike Adam, the member of the team who gave up his starting spot to make way for Howard to join the team.

"Mike is unbelievable. He's the MVP. He's a special guy to do that so we could win. We love him," said Gushue.

HIS BEST FRIEND

"He's my best friend," said third Mark Nichols. "He sacrificed himself for all of us. He gave up his spot and now we all have this."

This one was also for Jack MacDuff, the only Newfoundland curler ever to win a Brier, and his vice-skip Toby McDonald, who was asked to take over as coach of this team before the Edmonton Brier earlier this year.

"Brad phoned me up and told me he wanted to meet with me," said McDonald. "He was selling insurance at the time, so I figured he was going to try and sell some to me."

There will be a lot of stories in the Olympic Village. But not many will compare to this one we're sending from Canada.

"This just doesn't feel real," said lead Jamie Korab. "You dream of winning the Brier when you are a kid. Then along came 1998 and curling was in the Olympics.

"But you never actually believe you're going to be in the Olympics. We just got in the Olympics and I still don't believe we're in them."

Russ was right.

"Lor T'under'in Jay-zuz!"