LONDON, Ont. — Canada skip Brad Gushue has been dealing with some lower-body discomfort over the first few days at the Tim Hortons Brier.
He admits he “probably overdid it” at a team training camp ahead of this week’s Canadian men’s curling championship.
“We’ll manage it throughout the week and hopefully it gets better and better,” Gushue said.
This is the first competitive event for the St. John’s, N.L.-based team since mid-January. Gushue didn’t need to play in the recent provincial championship since he had an automatic Brier berth as defending champion.
The 42-year-old skip said he has had to manage a variety of nagging injuries in recent seasons.
“It’s just the same crap, different day,” he said.
Gushue said he tries to stay disciplined at practice and training but pacing himself can be a big challenge. He added the first game back last Friday was particularly rough with his left leg, hip and lower back acting up.
“It feels sometimes like it’s a Whac-a-Mole,” he said. “One day it could be the groin or adductor. The next day it could be the hip flexor and the next day it could be the glute. I’m kind of chasing her around.
“I’ve thrown so many rocks over my life that it’s catching up for sure. I’ve got to manage it.”
Gushue still managed to win four of his first five round-robin games but he was pushed hard in every matchup. Two of the victories were one-point decisions and every win went the full 10 ends.
Gushue, who has won the Brier in four of the last six seasons, added the pain can be sharp on occasion, noting the distraction can often lead to misses.
“Sometimes it’s user error,” he said. “When I slide properly, I don’t get any of the sharp pains.”
Last fall, Wild Card 3 skip Karsten Sturmay decided to add a Southern U.S. bonspiel to his team’s busy curling calendar.
It proved to be a wise decision.
Sturmay beat Reid Carruthers in the final of the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in late January in Tempe, Ariz., and the 26-point boost helped him secure the final wild-card spot at the Brier.
“We knew that worst-case scenario, we go there and we get some good practice for (Alberta) provincials,” Sturmay said. “Best-case scenario, we go there and we win the event like we did and it gives us a bit of a safety net.”
Sturmay finished fourth at the Alberta playdowns last month. Kevin Koe beat Brendan Bottcher in the final.
Bottcher took the first wild-card berth thanks to his No. 2 position (273.00 points) in the national rankings. The fifth-ranked Carruthers took the second wild-card spot (187.25) ahead of No. 6 Sturmay (145.75), who edged Toronto’s John Epping (140.88).
Stationed near the back corner of the media riser at Budweiser Gardens, CoolBet Canada curling oddsmaker Matt Hall might be the busiest person on the bench.
He sets the odds before each draw and closely monitors the action to make adjustments for live in-game betting. Bettors can gamble on win/loss results, point spreads, single-end bets and point totals.
Hall appears to be a good fit for the position. The 2019 world junior curling champion has a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo.
“I have to understand how an end is playing out, whether we’re leading to a multiple score or not and what the probabilities (are) of that,” he said. “I think just having that in-depth knowledge of how games tend to play out and what I’m seeing out there is incredibly important.”
This is the first Brier since sports betting was legalized in Ontario almost a year ago.