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Beijing bronze medallist Gushue shifts focus to Tim Hortons Brier, opens with win

‘I’m trying to weather the storm in the first four or five games and get a feel and get comfortable’
Team Wild Card One skip Brad Gushue, right, makes a shot as lead Geoff Walker sweeps while they play Team Quebec at the Tim Hortons Brier in Lethbridge, Alta., Saturday, March 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

There were no signs of fatigue Saturday as Brad Gushue’s team continued its whirlwind winter with a 9-3 victory over Quebec’s Michael Fournier at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker opened with a deuce and never trailed in the round-robin opener for both teams at the Enmax Centre.

The St. John’s, N.L.,-based team only spent about a week at home after a long trip back from Beijing, where they won bronze at the Winter Olympics. The players held a two-week training camp in British Columbia before flying to China last month.

Gushue admitted in Beijing that he wasn’t sure whether his team could be in top form at the national playdowns given the mental, physical and emotional toll of competing at the Games.

But the Wild Card One skip, who has won the Brier three times over the last five years, was in full control from the start of the afternoon draw.

“I’m trying to weather the storm in the first four or five games and get a feel and get comfortable,” Gushue said. “I think if we’re able to weather that storm, obviously expectations are going to start increasing and we’ll see what we can do.”

Gushue drew for a pair to open the scoring and Nichols made a triple takeout in the second end to set up a steal. A three-ender in the fifth essentially put the game away.

“The expectations are not as high as what they normally are but we made a lot of shots,” Gushue said.

In other early games, Nova Scotia’s Paul Flemming topped Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories 11-5, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs defeated Wild Card Three’s Jason Gunnlaugson 5-3 and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen dumped B.C.’s Brent Pierce 10-3.

Colton Lott played lead for Manitoba as a replacement for Colin Hodgson, who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is nursing a lower-body injury.

“Colton played astounding today,” McEwen said. “He’s well-known for his laser-surgery hitting. But wow, he had great feel today.”

The evening draw features a matchup between Canada’s Brendan Bottcher and New Brunswick’s James Grattan.

It’s the first meeting between New Brunswick vice Darren Moulding and his former teammates since the defending champions cut him from the squad last December.

Competition continues through March 13. The winning rink from the 18-team competition will represent Canada at the April 2-10 world men’s curling championship in Las Vegas.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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