Gushue’s gold caps Canada’s perfect run at world championships

Curling analyst Mike Harris joins Irfaan Gaffar to recap yet another great piece of hardware for Brad Gushue, and in record-setting fashion.

First Rachel Homan and now Brad Gushue.

Canada swept the top of the podium this season at the world curling championships in dominant fashion.

Homan ran the table with an undefeated 13-0 record at the women’s event last month in Beijing while Gushue pulled off an identical feat on the men’s side in Edmonton.

Gushue completed his 13-0 streak with a 4-2 victory over Sweden’s Niklas Edin during Sunday’s final at the Northlands Coliseum.

The double run of perfection certainly bodes well heading into an Olympic season where Canada looks to successfully defend both men’s and women’s gold. The reps for the 2018 Winter Games will be determined in December at the Olympic Trials. It could be Gushue and Homan wearing the Maple Leaf again in South Korea or defending medallists Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones or someone else. That’s how deep Canada is right now.

The St. John’s, N.L., team of Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker arguably had a tougher task getting through their national championship winning their first Brier tankard in their hometown just a few weeks ago. Gushue went 11-2 there edging 2016 world champ Kevin Koe 7-6 in the final, but he was as close to perfect as you could get in this event.

None of Gushue's 13 wins required extra ends and only a few even went the distance into the 10th. Although, among those were his two previous meetings with Edin during the round robin and again in the Page 1-2 playoff game.

Gushue won that second showdown 7-4 Friday to earn a direct berth to the gold-medal game and hammer advantage to start. Edin, a two-time world champ who won both titles on Canadian ice, took a slight detour picking up a 6-5 extra-end victory over Peter de Cruz of Switzerland in Saturday’s semifinal (de Cruz earned bronze by defeating American John Shuter 7-5 earlier Sunday).

That set up a nail-biting intense final, as the championship game should be, and it was nothing like the lopsided routs that played out over and over again during the round robin. Gushue couldn’t capitalize with hammer to start and neither could Edin as they were evenly matched trading singles back and forth twice through the first half with the score tied 2-2 at the fifth-end break.

Three consecutive blank ends followed, although no two were the same. A routine one-for-one takeout scenario played out in the seventh while Gushue needed to deliver a clutch double takeout -- and roll away his shooter -- in eight to put the bagels on the board.

As the game wore on, mistakes were due and Gushue finally found his opening in the ninth end. After Edin misplayed a double, Gushue drew for two and pulled ahead by a couple coming home.

Edin held the hammer in the 10th and final frame, however, he wouldn’t even get the opportunity to throw his last rock. Gushue executed another excellent double takeout to sit three counters. Edin came up short on his first skip stone and wasn’t able to curl close enough to Gushue’s shot rock. The Canadian skip simply punched it through the port to run his opponent out of rocks and claim his first world men's title.

Gushue became the first men’s skip to capture gold at the world junior (2001), Olympic (2006) and world championship stages. He wasn’t the first skip to go undefeated at the world tournament, Winnipeg's Kerry Burtnyk most recently went 11-0 in 1995, but he was the first under the current 12-team format.

It’s remarkable considering when the season started, Gushue was sidelined with a hip/groin issue and had no idea when he would even be back on the ice as no timetable was set for his return.

Through adversity the team’s depth shined with Nichols stepping up to skip and Adam Spencer, Charley Thomas and Pat Simmons taking turns subbing at third. Team Gushue Nichols never missed the playoffs through the eight events Gushue was out and won a tour title at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard in October. They entered the week ranked second on the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date standings behind (big surprise here) Edin, who has claimed six titles to sit at No. 1.

The 36-year-old Gushue returned in early December and didn’t miss a beat while still managing his injury. Gushue won his seventh career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Meridian Canadian Open in January defeating (guess again) Edin in the final. Gushue was perfect there too, but in a different way as he threw 100 percent during the championship game.

How fitting Gushue and Edin would duke it out once again for the world gold medal.

There’s no rest for the world’s best, however. Gushue will be back on the ice Tuesday night at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto to start his WestJet Players’ Championship title defence.