Feature | Curling

Brad Gushue's new life: returning to school at 40 while in a curling bubble

The Torino 2006 Olympic champion is taking MBA classes online while juggling his studies with curling as he aims for a second Games appearance.

By ZK Goh ·

Would you go back to university aged 40? How about while maintaining Olympic dreams at the same time, and still playing your sport to a high level?

That's what Torino 2006 curling champion Brad Gushue is doing, as he pursues his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree while keeping an eye on the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

The 2017 World champion and three-time Canadian national champion of the Brier tournament may be nearing the end of his sporting career, but he's decided to switch tack, pushed on in part by the cancellation of various curling tournaments due to the pandemic.

Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he said: "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?"

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Back to school after 17 years

Gushue was just 25 when he skipped Canada to Olympic gold in Italy, with help from the experienced Russ Howard. That was 15 years ago now – and also two years after he left university, where he studied for a bachelor's degree in business administration.

While the MBA will help in his post-sporting life – he co-owns a fitness business in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, with teammate Mark Nichols – that's a long break from the rhythm of studying that takes some getting used to.

"As a business owner right now, there were a lot of positives to doing this," he explained.

"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."

And how does Gushue think he's doing in his studies at Queen's University based in Ontario?

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

Video well-wishes

Away from the ice and his business, and from the books, too, Gushue has found another way to keep himself busy while earning a little bit more on the side.

Curlers can be pretty well-known in Canada, especially successful ones like the 40-year-old. And with that comes things like autograph requests, or even requests for video shout-outs.

With sites like Cameo and Memmo – which offer fans the chance to receive a personalised video from celebrities – now available, Gushue decided to get involved and make more fans' wishes come true.

"It just opens up the opportunity for a lot more people, as opposed to going to a Brier Patch and waiting for hours, hoping that we show up," he told The Athletic.

So, when he gets a request – perhaps a birthday wish, or a retirement greeting – through Memmo, he looks at the script or information provided, and records a greeting in his home office.

But while recording well-wishes for fans is one thing, meeting them at competitions is another. The latter doesn't look likely to happen for some time yet.

Bubble life

Before the pandemic hit, Gushue hit the news for playing mixed doubles with his 12-year-old daughter, finishing runner-up at the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial championships.

Since then, however, the curling season has been severely disrupted, including the cancellation of last year's World Championships (at which Gushue and his rink were meant to represent Canada for the third time), things are about to change that could put a spanner in Gushue's studies.

He and his rink are about to enter Curling Canada's eight-week bubble in Calgary, Alberta, with six events – of which Gushue will take part in at least four, if not five – on the cards.

The Canadian women's nationals, the Brier, the mixed doubles nationals (in which Gushue is entered alongside the reigning women's national champion skip Kerri Einarson), the men's world championship (which he will play in if his rink wins the Brier again), and two Grand Slam of Curling events are all set to take place in the bubble.

While he goes for a fourth Brier crown, Gushue will try to juggle curling with studying two hours a day. Plus, once he's done with the bubble in Calgary and returns to the eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he faces a two-week quarantine – perfect for studying.

"I spoke to the (course) director and I talked to him about my priorities in trying to get back to the Olympics. It shouldn't conflict with any classes," Gushue said to the CBC about his lessons which take place every other Sunday and Monday.

They would clash – if Gushue reaches a final in any of the tournaments he plays, the draw (curling game) would be scheduled for a Sunday.

Who knows, it might be a problem he'll have to face in Beijing in a year's time too.

But that's an issue Gushue would love to have if it happens.