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‘A relief more than joy’: Jason Gunnlaugson claims berth at Canadian Olympic curling trials

Jason Gunnlaugson, from Morris, Man., has secured his rink’s place at the Canadian Olympic curling trials after defeating Tanner Horgan 9-8 in the ‘A’ side final on Sunday at the pre-trials tournament in Liverpool, N.S.

It will be the second appearance at the Olympic trials for the 37-year-old Manitoba skip.

“I think it’s a relief more than joy,” Gunnlaugson told CBC Sports. “The first time I got there it was pure joy. This is a relief.”

Horgan, who didn’t lose a match the entire week, took a 4-3 lead into the break.

However, with the teams tied 5-5 in the eighth end, Gunnlaugson scored three for an 8-5 lead with two ends left.

But Horgan wasn’t about to go down without a fight, bouncing back with three of his own in the ninth to set up a dramatic finish with the game tied 8-8. 

With the game on the line and his fate in his own hands, Gunnlaugson delivered a winning draw to the full eight-foot. His sweepers, Matt Wozniak and Connor Njegovan, were leaning on their brooms most of the way down the ice to get the rock into the winning position and notch the 9-8 triumph.

“It was a fantastic sweep. I didn’t want to throw it too hard. I knew I was fired up and the last thing I wanted to do was throw it too hard,” Gunnlaugson said. “I have great sweepers who work their butts off every day and they got it there.”

There are now just two remaining spots, one men’s and one women’s, at the Olympic trials, which begin Nov. 20 in Saskatoon.

Glenn Howard, of Penetanguishene, Ont., plays Manitoba-based Team Pat Simmons on Sunday afternoon with the winner moving on to play Horgan for the final men’s trials berth.

On the women’s side, Corryn Brown defeated Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson 8-5 on Sunday morning to advance to the final game versus Jacqueline Harrison.

The winner of Brown versus Harrison earns the final women’s spot at the trials.

On Saturday night, Thunder Bay, Ont. skip Krista McCarville was the first to clinch an Olympic trials spot by defeating Harrison 9-6.

Gunnlaugson and his teammates become the second, rallying from a tough start in Nova Scotia to book their spot in Saskatchewan.

“[Winning at pre-trials is] a good spot. Historically, the pre-trials teams have done well. We’ll head to the [Grand] Slam and then rest up before training hard before the trials,” Gunnlaugson said.

“We feel we’re a top-nine team in this country in this quadrennial and to not be there would have stung. We had two early losses but we battled and got through.”

Teams already qualified for the Olympic trials on the men’s side include: Matt Dunstone, Mike McEwen, Brendan Bottcher, John Epping, Brad Gushue, Brad Jacobs and Kevin Koe. On the women’s side, Kelsey Rocque, Laura Walker, Casey Scheidegger, Kerri Einarson, Tracy Fleury, Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones have all qualified for Saskatoon.

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