New-look team Gushue gelling early

Nathan Young and E.J. Harnden © WCF / Howard Lao

With a track record that includes Olympic gold and bronze and a world title, it is little surprise that Canada’s Brad Gushue is among the most-watched players. As he leads his team in representing Canada at the inaugural Pan Continental Curling Championships on home ice in Calgary, he approaches the milestone of 100 appearances with the Maple Leaf on his back.

But such achievements don’t happen without change along the way. The team he leads in Calgary has been altered this season, with the introduction of new second player E.J. Harnden alongside stalwarts Geoff Walker at lead and third-player Mark Nichols.

Geoff Walker and Mark Nichols © WCF / Howard Lao

Speaking after his first win of the round-robin – following up an opening loss to the United States, with a 7-1 beating of Brazil – a relaxed Gushue reflected on how his new team is performing. “I think our team is going well, we’re getting along and working well together,” he said.

And while it seems that Harnden is integrating and helping to build a positive team dynamic, Gushue also conceded, “We’re not necessarily playing great yet, but we’re enjoying being with each other and competing.”

One other major change for this event is the recruitment of 19-year-old Nathan Young as fifth player. Gushue outlined the team thinking behind that move, explaining, “We don’t carry a fifth player normally, but we brought in Nathan as our fifth player because we thought this would be an opportunity to bring in a good young player on an international level with us.” Gushue also confirmed, “This’ll be the only event he’ll do with us.”

Nathan Young and Jeff Stoughton © WCF / Steve Seixeiro

And putting his team’s thinking into action, Gushue had enough faith in his new recruit to let Young replace him as skip after five ends of the game against Brazil, as he chose to rest a “troublesome hip”.

Despite this change leading to an inadvertent rule violation by the Canadians, caused by confusion over who should hold the broom for whom, which was amicably resolved, Young’s baptism seems to have gone well.

Certainly, Young, a Youth Olympic Games gold medallist, thinks so himself. “This whole experience has been amazing so far,” he confirmed when he stepped off the ice.

Thinking about the whole set-up further, he added, “Sometimes when we’re back in the hotel sitting together and watching TV, it hits me – the people that are around me — it’s absolutely crazy. They’re people that I’ve looked up to for so long and for the opportunity to be here as fifth in their team, and soaking up all they have – I’ll use all that in my future in the sport.”

Young won the Mixed Doubles title at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, partnering Hungary’s Laura Nagy and he compared his current experience with Gushue’s team to his time at the Olympic capital city.

Laura Nagy (HUN) and Nathan Young (CAN) after winning YOG Mixed Doubles gold © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik

“To be honest, there’s not a lot of difference between me at the Youth Olympics and me here. I mean here we are in our Canada jackets with the Maple Leaf on our backs. It’s a different role for me personally because when we were in Switzerland, I was a player and now I’m fifth, so it’s a learning curve for me to try to do what I can for the team and make it easier for them, but no, there’s a lot of similarities. There’s a lot of differences too, so it’s really good to learn both.”

Summing up his current position, Young was enthusiastic, “For sure it’s a dream come true to do this. These are the best curlers of all time. They still have a lot left in them, but it’s so amazing to be with them.”

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Calgary, Canada

3 November 2022