Brad Gushue’s most recent attempt for another appearance at the Winter Olympics came to a screeching halt Sunday night as he and teammate Val Sweeting lost 8-6 to Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris in the final of the 2018 Canadian Olympic mixed doubles curling trials in Portage La Prairie, Man.
Lawes, who curls third for Jennifer Jones’s Winnipeg team, and Morris, who skips a rink based out of Kelowna, B.C., will be making their second Olympic appearance. Lawes won gold with Jones at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, while Morris was a gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, curling third for Kevin Martin.
Gushue and Sweeting, who skips her own team out of Edmonton, had peeled off eight straight wins heading into the final, following a pair of losses to open the 16-team event.
The two had beaten Lawes and Morris twice prior to the final, including a win in the Page 1-2 playoff game, a result that sent Gushue and Sweeting directly to the final.
As the Trials neared the playoffs, there was a better-than-even chance someone from Gushue’s team would be going to the Pyeongchang, South Korea Olympics. Mark Nichols and Jones, Geoff Walker and his finance, Laura Crocker, and Brett Gallant and his girlfriend, Jocelyn Peterman, had all made the playoffs.
In the end, however, it was Gushue and Sweeting left with a shot at the Olympics.
Walker/Crocker lost their first two games in the double-knockout format; Nichols/Jones fell to Gallant/Peterman in the 3-4 Page playoff game; and the latter were defeated by Morris and Lawes in the semifinal.
On Sunday, Gushue and Sweeting led the final 3-1 after three ends, but Lawes and Morris scored four in the fourth for a 5-3 lead at the break (mixed doubles play on eight ends).
“I think I made a strategic error on my second one there,” Gushue told reporters of the fourth end. “If I play the tap, and bump them out and get two in the rings, worst case is a deuce. And if I make that real good, it’s probably a steal.
“But we played the guard, and John made a real good one on his next rock and put us in a bit of heat there. It was definitely the turning point of the game.”
Lawes and Morris stole two more in the fifth to make it 7-3. Gushue and Sweeting tried to stay in it with a pair in the sixth end, and made it a one-point game with a steal in the seventh.
In the eighth, Sweeting hit and rolled out on her final stone to give Lawes and Morris the win.
“I thought we stayed at it,” Sweeting said. “We didn’t give up and it just wasn’t our day out there. I’m proud of us.”
Gushue, Nichols, Gallant and Walker will head to London, Ont., for the Continental Cup which opens Thursday. From there, they’ll travel to Camrose, Alta. for the Canadian Open Jan. 16-21.
After that, the team will break for two weeks before reassembling and preparing for the Tim Hortons Brier March 3-11 in Regina, Sask.
Team Gushue will wear Team Canada’s colours in Regina as the defending champions.