Price Atkinson - CAMROSE, Alberta - Brad Gushue's feet touched down back home in St John's today. And the reigning world champion couldn't be happier to be home for the first time in three weeks.
"For me, not winning the trials was pretty devastating considering all the work we'd put into it over the last three or four years," Gushue told the Edmonton Sun yesterday after being knocked out of the Meridian Canadian Open by Kevin Koe.
"I'm tired. I'm physically tired. I'm mentally tired. I'm emotionally tired."
It's hard not to blame Gushue and the rest of his teammates including lead Geoff Walker, second Brett Gallant, and vice-skip Mark Nichols.
After winning the Brier and then the 2017 World Championships, Team Gushue was ranked No. 1 on the World Curling Tour and the favorite heading into the Roar of the Rings in December. However, their Olympic dream ended at the hands of Mike McEwen in the semifinal of the Canadian Trials.
"This fall we had a great start to the year and didn't lose very many games. But to be honest, we weren't playing phenomenal," Walker said. "We were getting a lot of breaks and making the right shots at the right time but knew we needed to get better for the Trials.
"Even in the semifinal game at the Trials, we didn't feel we played badly. We just got outplayed by Mike and his team that day and sometimes that's all you can do."
The foursome then regrouped and prepared for the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials, as their fallback or 'Plan B' in hopes of representing Team Canada in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Gushue and teammate Val Sweeting were beaten in the finals 8-6 by John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes, while his teammates lost earlier in the Trials.
Leaving Camrose, the foursome is now ready for a mental and physical break.
"We're really looking forward to these next two weeks where we're not going to think much about curling at all let alone step on the ice while recharging the batteries," Walker said. "For Brad and Mark, they have families and little ones, so getting back and enjoying time with them. For Brett and I, I think it'll be just getting little things done around the house that you gotta get done."
Walker has had a few stops at home in between events but not many. With so much on the line packed into the last two months, when did the mental fatigue finally set in for Team Gushue?
"I think this week actually," Walker said. "After the Mixed Doubles (Trials) and Continental Cup, it was a lot of fun but it also wore us out a little bit. Coming into this week, we just weren't sharp. We just weren't the typical Team Gushue that we have been."
Gushue is scheduled to do some upcoming TV work in the coming weeks. Walker mentioned he's excited to get back into the gym for the first time in a few weeks since a majority of their off-ice time at events was spent trying to rest from traveling and competing.
While the grind caught up with them this week at the final Grand Slam of Curling event before the upcoming Olympics, Team Gushue is still focused on much more that's left on the table the rest of this season.
"We got off to a little bit of a shaky start here," Walker said. "We actually played a very good game against Koe. It just came down to them with hammer coming home. Now we're looking forward to the break, trying to recharge and then gear up for the Brier. That's gonna be our number one goal now, to try and get to Las Vegas for Worlds."
Gushue echoed his lead.
"There is still a lot to play for with the Grand Slams, the Brier and hopefully the Worlds."