Olympic fever rubs off on Stoughton

By Jim Bender, WINNIPEG SUN

Watching the Olympics stirred those competitive juices as Jeff Stoughton prepared to represent Manitoba at the Brier, which starts in Halifax this Saturday.

Canada’s Kevin Martin won the gold medal and Cheryl Bernard, the silver, in Vancouver.

“It was really exciting,” Stoughton said Tuesday. “To play in front of that kind of crowd and to have the success of the Canadians was awesome and hopefully, we can carry that on as Manitobans and do really well at the Brier … The (curling) crowd wasn’t that knowledgeable but it looked like it was a lot of fun and I think it would have been great to play in front of that type of crowd. We’ll see if Halifax can duplicate it.”

Halifax certainly did fill the arena at both the 2003 Brier and 2005 Canadian Curling Trials.

“It was just really neat to see how Canada came together (at the Olympics),” said lead Steve Gould.

“To see Kevin and Cheryl do so well — and it was unfortunate that Cheryl didn’t make her last shot in 10 or 11. But Kevin and Cheryl had so much pressure when they were expected to win gold, I’m pretty proud to be Canadian.

“(But) it doesn’t do a thing for me (competitively) because I wasn’t part of the event, you know.”

FOUR-HORSE FIELD?: While losing the 2005 trials to Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue may still sting, losing last year’s Brier final to Martin did not leave nearly as sour a taste.

“We had to go through tie-breakers and I think we were pretty tired,” Gould recalled. “Jeff made a hell of a shot to beat (Newfoundland’s) Brad Gushue there in the (Page playoff) three-four game, then we beat (Ontario’s Glenn) Howard. It wasn’t overly disappointing to lose that Brier final because we got our butts kicked as opposed to a last-rock, extra-end loss. But we’ve re-set our goals and we really want to go win, not just do well at this one.”

But so do Howard, who lost the 2009 trials final to Martin, and Gushue, who did not even get back to the trials. While Alberta’s Kevin Koe is expected to make it a four-horse race, there are some teams that could surprise.

“(Saskatchewan’s Darrell) McKee used to play third for Bruce Korte and they just switched around,” Stoughton noted. “Korte is now playing third and has Bruce’s brother (Roger) there so, it’s pretty much the same team that went to the Brier in 2000, so they’re a good team.

“(Northern Ontario’s) Brad Jacobs has played a ton on the Ontario Curling Tour and has done really well. We’ve seen them on the circuit, so they’re a really good team.”

However, Stoughton does not know much about either B.C.’s Jeff Richard or Quebec’s Serge Reid.

“Obviously, Richard beat off a couple of good teams in (Bob) Ursel and (Sean) Geall out of B.C. so, you just never know,” he said. “Obviously, they all can play.”

BITERS: Richard, by the way, is the brother of Jeanna Schraeder, who plays third for B.C.’s Kelly Scott. Kevin MacKenzie, Scott’s brother, is the team’s fifth … Russ Howard’s son, Steven, will play third for New Brunswick’s James Grattan, a wily Brier veteran … James Koe, Kevin’s brother, will represent the Yukon/N.W.T. … Randy Dutiaume will serve as Stoughton’s fifth once again.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca

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