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Q&A with Mark Nichols

Newfoundland and Labrador's Mark Nichols watches his rock during a draw at the Brier at Mile One Centre.

Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Newfoundland and Labrador's Mark Nichols watches his rock during a draw at the Brier at Mile One Centre. Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Most people in this province and country know the name Mark Nichols as a curler who was part of the Brad Gushue 2006 Olympic Games gold medal team and the team that recently won the Brier.

However, to those in the Big Land, Nichols is one of their own.

 

Nichols was born and raised in Labrador City. He took time on March 27 to answer questions for The Aurora. The interview took place at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s – with the Brier win behind him and the World Curling Championships in Edmonton just days ahead.

 

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Lab City in 1980.

 

At what age did you start curling?

I was probably age seven when I started but we have pictures of me on the curling ice when I was two or three years old. I had the snowsuit and the helmet on, pushing rocks down the ice.

 

What attracted you to the sport?

I grew up at the Curling Club and, as soon as I was old enough to join the league, I did.  I enjoyed it and just wanted to keep playing.

 

At what age did you leave Labrador City?

I graduated high school in 1998 and moved out to St. John’s to go to university.

 

What can you say about growing up in Labrador West?

I loved it there. In the winter I downhill skied, played hockey, curling. And in the summer I played softball, basketball, track and field. We had access to just about every sport growing up and I think that helped me transition into one sport. It definitely made me a well-rounded athlete.

 

When did you realize you had the potential to make a name for yourself as a curler?

I got to go to my first provincial junior championship when I was 12. By age 14 or 15, I knew I could compete with a lot of players on the island. I just loved being out on the ice and practicing and playing games. Then, when I moved down here and started playing with Brad, we realized we could compete with not just everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador but with everyone in Canada.

 

What is your best memory about your Olympic experience?

I was a huge fan of the Olympics growing up. It didn’t matter what sport. If someone was wearing a maple leaf at the Olympics I was watching and cheering them on. And I always dreamed of what it would be like to be wearing the maple leaf and what would it be like to be able to stand on top of the podium and listen to the “O Canada” play as you got a gold medal around your neck... So, wearing the maple leaf, the opening ceremonies, getting the medal, standing next to Brad and the other guys. That’s something tough to describe.

 

You took a break from curling after the 2011 Bier but returned for the 2012-2013 season with Jeff Stoughton’s rink. Why did you come back with Gushue’s team after the 2014 Brier?

Our move from Winnipeg back to Newfoundland was a family decision. We (Nichols and his wife Colette) were expecting our first child and we wanted to move back to Newfoundland and Labrador to be closer to family and friends. The transition curling- wise was that I approached Brad and said that I’m moving home... Would you be interested in having me come back and play? We had many conversations at the end of that season to see if it was something he wanted... And see if it was something I would enjoy as well. And, through those conversations, we realized it was something we both wanted to do again.

 

How important is family support? (Nichols and his wife have a young son and are expecting their second child within the next few weeks).

We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if we didn’t have that support system. A lot of people see the four guys on the ice. But we all have extended family behind us... They’ve got to deal with us when we lose and when we win. But there are also a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that no one sees. Those people take a lot of things off our plate so we can focus on what we do on the ice.

 

Let’s talk about March 12 and your role in helping the Gushue team win its first Brier. The championship came down to the last rock. Both yourself and Brett Gallant worked hard to get the rock where it needed to be. You stepped in to sweep for Geoff Walker who had injured his shoulder. What were you thinking after that last rock left Gushue’s hand?

It’s not a position that I ever thought I’d ever be in leading up to the moment... I never thought about it. But Geoff had that injury. So, the conversation before Brad even left the house to go down to the other end was, ‘When I let it (the rock) go, you’re coming out.’ So, he let it go and you see me running out and getting in position to sweep the rock. Lucky enough I was there to help Brett get it into the rings.

 

That moment in time is one many of us will remember. What can you say about Team Gushue fans?

We’ve got the best fans in the world. We had tons of messages of support not just from Newfoundland and Labrador but from all across the country and the world. From people who enjoy watching our team. And we couldn’t thank our fans enough.

 

What about your fans from Labrador?

They are great fans. Obviously, I am biased because I grew up there. But I love Labrador. I love where I’m from. And it’s always nice to know that we have fans up in Labrador always cheering us on.

 

The Brier win earned your team a spot in the World Curling Championship in Edmonton April 1-9. How are you feeling heading into that competition?

Any time you can wear the maple leaf representing Canada is something very special. We don’t take this for granted. We know it’s a rare opportunity. We’re going to enjoy it but we are also working to win a World Championship for Canada and for Newfoundland and Labrador.

danette@nl.rogers.com

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