February 25, 2006
Joy of six
But seven would have been nice ...
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

PINEROLO, Italy -- Scored the touchdown. Missed the convert.

Canada finally won Olympic gold in men's curling at the Olympic Winter Games in a game which will be remembered for Brad Gushue having the whole house to shoot at to make it a seven-ender only to come up heavy to settle for six.

"I thought we might be looking at two or three. Then I looked up and we were sitting six! I thought 'No way can we lose now,' '' last rock-thrower Gushue said of the gold medal game, which turned into a 10-4 rout when Markku Uusipaavalniemi of Finland crashed on a guard in the sixth end.

"Physically I had so huge an adrenaline rush it's a miracle I didn't bang it off the back boards,'' Gushue said of having six rocks scoring and one left to throw knowing he had just won the Olympics.

Skip Russ Howard, whom the Newfoundland rink recruited to join the team to call the games and throw second stones, said it was such a strange way to win the gold.

"It was real weird. It was surreal.

"We've won. Now what do we do?''

Teams in the final are required to play at least eight ends. "It was hard to know what to feel,'' lead Jamie Korab said. "After Markku crashed, we just won the gold medal but we still had to keep playing.''

FOR THE AGES

While Canada lost to Russia in hockey in what a lot of people back home seem to be forgetting was a great game, Canada won in curling in something less than that. But chances are, not just because there was a gold medal to go with it, it'll be remembered for ages.

You don't, in the final of the Brier, the worlds and especially the Olympics expect to see a seven-ender. And you never expect to see - anywhere - a skip coming up heavy on last rock to end up settling for six.

That's what Gushue was looking at in the sixth end. He had all the rings to work with and sent it through them all, ending up a couple inches through the 12-foot on the centre line.

Third Mark Nichols made a brilliant double or triple takeout, depending on how you score two rocks sent out of the house, and another to an outside ring where it was later removed.

"Nichols made a perfect triple takeout and after that we must make a freeze on my first shot,'' Uusipaavalniemi said.

"It was heavy and it didn't curl.

"The last one we thought would be the same. It curled.''

Nichols had the biggest game of his life in the biggest game of his life.

"Nichols, in the last two games was huge. He wasn't himself all week, but boy, oh boy, the last two games ... he was the difference in the semifinal and he was the difference today.''

Nichols curled an incredible 97% in the final. He was 94% in the semifinal. But his round robin with the 6-3 team was so unimpressive - even with the two medal round games thrown in - that he could only get his Olympic overall percentage up to 80.

"After the last game of the round robin, we had a practice. He made eight straight runbacks,'' Korab said. "We've always believed he was one of the great thirds in the world but this game put him on the map. I'm proud of him.''

Nichols said the raise takeouts are his specialty. And they were the shots he wasn't making in the round robin.

"It was frustrating. I didn't feel I was throwing bad but I wasn't getting the results.''

The Finns lavished praise on him as well.

"They did a great job, especially the third,'' said lead Teemu Salo. "After that end, we were finished.''

It was a game with an amazing number of rocks in play, right from the first end when Uusipaavalniemi hit for two.

'ANYTHING TO WIN'

"We were relaxed and ready to play today and really showed it,'' said coach Toby McDonald.

"It was a group of competitive people prepared to do anything to win. That's why picking up Russ Howard worked. They accepted that every once in a while they were going to clash. But it always came back to being prepared to do anything to win.

"A lot of people didn't believe we could do this but we believed in each other and we did it,'' said Nichols.