As many of the top rock-tossers in the land battled it out at the Canada Cup with a trials berth on line, one guy from the last trials is sitting at home and, for all intents and purposes, taking a break from the Olympic hunt.
Jason Gunnlaugson skipped an upstart team at the last quadrennial, making it to the pre-trials and then the trials. And he was impressive enough that many pegged him as a player for the future. Of course so did the Russians, who hired him on to play for them, asking him to take out citizenship.
As most of us know by now, that was a short-lived adventure after the Ruskies pulled a fast one and dumped J-Gunn and hit compatriots early on.
No worries. They would re-group and make another run at getting to the Olympic Trials, using much the same methodology as last time. That was to play a heavy schedule and pick up point after point, no matter how small, hoping that in the end it would be enough.
But that’s all ended now. Gunner and his squad of Justin Richter, Jason Ackerman and David Kraichy had a horrible start to the season, collecting just $300 in five starts. Needless to say, the team wasn’t living the high live as it had in the previous few years and it just splintered.
“We never came back to the same level we played at before we went to Russia,” Gunnlaugson told me. “It just really wasn’t working out.”
Adding to the conflicts was the fact that Richter got engaged and had to keep up with the demands of the upcoming wedding.
Gunnlaugson said the Russian experience was one he would do over again in a minute, despite having it cut short.
“It was tough,” he admitted. “One minute you’re 99 per cent sure you’re going to be in the Olympics and the next you’re back home.”
The skip called playing for Team Russia one of the coolest things in his life and felt there were absolutely no negatives to it. But it’s clear the team returned without the popular underdogs of the last trials.
Since returning and with the splintering of his team, he’s joined forces with the Bohn brothers and is playing a more regional schedule for the time being.
He’s also helping out Curl Manitoba at some clinics around the province.
But, he said, a run to the Trials isn’t in the cards.
“You have to curl full time or close to it to have a chance,” he stated. “Right now, that run is geared towards about 10 or 12 teams.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means we’ll have a good team at the Olympics. It’s just the way things are.”
There is not one iota of remorse or regret in Gunnlaugson’s voice concerning Russia or the breakup of his team. He seems content with where he is and where the game is heading. It’s just too bad that top talent such he is, will be on the sidelines.