John Morris is a step closer to back-to-back trips to the Winter Olympic Games.
Morris’s team representing Kelowna and Vernon— third Jim Cotter (who throws last rocks), second Tyrel Griffith, lead Rick Sawatsky and coach Pat Ryan — knocked off Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 8-3 on Thursday night at the Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, Ont., in the men’s A-Event final at the 2013 Capital One Road to the Roar Pre-Trials, presented by Monsanto.
It was battle of skips who’ve claimed the last two Olympic gold medals; Gushue won in 2006 at Turin, Italy, throwing last rocks for a team skipped by Russ Howard, while Morris won in 2010 at Vancouver throwing third rocks for Kevin Martin.
The more recent Olympian prevailed on Thursday, thanks to an eighth-end gamble that saw him go hard for the steal while leading 5-3. Looking at two Morris stones in the four-foot, Gushue also decided to gamble, attempting a 15-foot angle-raise double takeout to score. He was just wide, giving the stolen deuce and, in essence the victory to Morris.
The victory means Morris will have first-end hammer and choice of rock colour throughout the playoffs, and two cracks at a berth into the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, presented by Monsanto, Dec. 1-8 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg — the event that will decide Canada’s representatives for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Hammer and rocks is good, but you can never think about having two lives because you let the pressure off a bit,” said Morris. “We know we want to win this first one; we’re in a good position because we can choose our rocks (colour), we’re comfortable with the ice, and we’re going to make sure we’re firing in that game.”
Morris will play the B-Event winner Saturday at 2 p.m. (all times Eastern), with the winner advancing directly to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings. The loser of that game will play the winner of a contest between the two C-Event winners on Sunday for the other Trials berth.
Gushue will be back on the ice on Friday at 2 p.m. against reigning Tim Hortons Brier champion Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in a B-Event semifinal.