Back to school: Brad Gushue pursuing master's degree amid chaotic curling season

·4 min read
Back to school: Brad Gushue pursuing master's degree amid chaotic curling season

World Junior champion. World champion. Olympic champion. Three-time Brier champion. The list of accomplishments for Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue is lengthy.

There isn't anything left in curling for him to win. He's done it all.

Now in the winter of his career, the 40-year-old, who's preparing to head to Calgary next month for upwards of eight weeks to compete in a number of bonspiels, is heading back to class.

Gushue is the early days of working towards his Masters of Business at Queen's University.

"I'm a sucker for punishment I think. It just felt like the right time," Gushue said. "I don't think I would have done this if the pandemic wasn't here and didn't have the curling season we've had."

Sitting around and thinking about things isn't something Gushue particularly enjoys. He's a perfectionist on the ice — early in his career he'd throw more than 100 rocks a day. That changed when curling great Kevin Martin told him to tone it down.

So when there was some down time this past summer in the midst of an incessant pandemic, Gushue started to think about life after curling in a way he hasn't before, and decided on going back to class.

"I was kind of thinking post-curling career, whether that's in a year in a half, five and a half years or nine and a half years, what do I want to transfer into?" he told CBC Sports from his home in St. John's, N.L.

"As a business owner right now, there were a lot of positives to doing this. I guess the downside is that for this next year I'm going to be pretty busy and have to get back to studying, which I haven't done in 17 years.

Gushue is co-owner with teammate Mark Nichols of Orange Theory Fitness studio in St. John's.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Out of his comfort zone

All those years ago Gushue got his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Memorial University. It's been a long time since he's been in this type of setting.

He's certainly out of his comfort zone — in the rings and in the hack — and now fully immersed in the books. The only thing he's finding some sort of resemblance to curling is the team aspect of the program.

Gushue says about 50 per cent of the course is team-based learning. During their first meeting Gushue says some of his team members recognized him. Others didn't, but quickly googled who he was.

"Then the questions came," he said, laughing. "It's been interesting."

Gushue says his six other team members, many who are fresh off their first degree, have been a massive support system so far.

The skip is used to calling the shots, confident in his every move. That's not the case on this school-studying team.

"I feel like I'm the weak link. I'd be fifth if this was a curling team. No disrespect to fifths," he said.

"I wouldn't be throwing the last rock. Let's just say that."

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Brier schedule

Gushue, like he does before any major competition, has mapped out what his Brier schedule and school schedule are, and how much time he'll be able to put into his studies while trying to win a fourth national championship.

In the beginning of the event he says he'll probably put about two hours a day into his studies between or after games to end the day.

The ideal plan for Gushue is to win the Brier, play in the mixed doubles national championship, play in the men's world championship and then stay a little longer to compete in the two Grand Slam events — he then has to quarantine for two weeks when he returns to St. John's.

It'll be a long haul but Gushue takes comfort in knowing he's using that time effectively by working towards a master's degree.

"When I went into this I spoke to the director and I talked to him about my priorities in trying to get back to the Olympics," Gushue said. "It shouldn't conflict with any classes."

His classes are every second Sunday and Monday. Curling championships are played on Sundays. Gushue won't say what championship event and classes could collide, not wanting to jinx it, but he insists they've talked about a plan should it come to that.

"That's a problem I'm willing to entertain."