Success has taught Olympic curling champion Brad Gushue one of life's lessons.
A target used to be a goal out in front of him.
"Now, the target's on my back," said the 26-year-old Newfoundlander on a trip through Eastern Canada to promote his biography, Golden Gushue, written by Alex J. Walling.
"We've noticed it already this year. If a team's only going to win one game all season, they want it to be against us."
Life has changed 180 degrees since Feb. 24, 2006, the day Gushue's rink triumphed over Finland 10-4 at the Turin Olympics. It was Canada's first men's gold, after runner-up silver finishes by Mike Harris at Nagano and Kevin Martin at Salt Lake City. The Finns actually conceded when the match was out of reach, and fans will remember the image of Gushue, reaching for his cell phone, tears streaking his face, to call his mother who was too sick with bowel cancer to travel to Turin.
It was a Canadian sporting landmark. Like the eighth and final game of the hockey Summit Series in 1972, the Olympic curling final brought Newfoundland and Labrador - and many other parts of Canada - to a standstill. There is a chapter in the book devoted to fans' tales of what they were doing when the curling gold was being won.
Team members were conferred honourary doctor of laws degrees by Memorial University. They were honoured again at the Juno Awards. Newfoundland's Route 3A has been renamed Team Gushue Highway, and in St. John's, to mark the victory, there's a Gold Medal Drive, a Toby McDonald Street named for the coach, and five streets named for members of the rink: Brad Gushue Crescent, Mark Nichols Place, Russ Howard Street, Jamie Korab Street and Mike Adam Street. He can't get away from himself.
As the local heroes, they'll find they are prisoners of their own success. Their time is in demand everywhere on the Rock, to support every good cause. "We've become very good at time management the last few months," Gushue said.
"I don't think it's sunk in yet," Gushue said. "It was like playing a Brier final each and every game. People asked me how I liked Italy. I never saw Italy. I had to go back and sleep after every game. It was exhausting. I'm starting to understand what we did.
"But now, we start over this season at the bottom. The Brier's the biggest thing to win, but then the ultimate is in 2010."
That would be the dream of defending the gold medal on home ice. But getting back there is tougher than the Olympic Games themselves. Some 80 per cent of the world's curlers are in Canada, including the cream of the sport. Every move he makes will be chronicled by the curling fraternity.
"People everywhere know us and know what we're doing. All of a sudden, our cash-spiel results, which might not get into the paper before, are front page news."
The biggest news, which was entirely expected, is that veteran Howard, picked up for the Olympics, has returned to New Brunswick to curl with his son, Glenn. Gushue recruited Chris Schille, a 23-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., to fill that void. He also will continue to curl with Nichols and Korab, with Adams as the fifth man.
"We looked around the province first, but didn't find someone who was a fit, so then we drew up a list of seven or eight players from around the country, who were young and had time and talent, and we started calling them," said Gushue. "It didn't take long to figure Chris was the man. He was so enthusiastic about joining the team."
Gushue had yet another addition, this one off the ice. In September, he got married to fiance Krista Tibbo. It's helped dam the stream of e-mail proposals the handsome young curler had been receiving from smitten fans.
The thing he wants to add is the Brier title, an event he has yet to win. He is the early favourite to win curling's biggest annual event in Hamilton, Ont., in March. But first he has to get through a season with that target on his back.