Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stoughton high on life in sobriety society

Choice to spurn booze plays role in success

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REGINA -- He's spent his entire adult life on the ice -- but never on the rocks.

And so when you go looking for the secret to Jeff Stoughton's longevity -- and many here at the World Men's Curling Championship are doing just that this week as Team Canada improved to 5-0 on Monday with victories over Korea and USA -- you have to wonder what role Stoughton's long-ago decision to keep the ice under his feet and not in his glass has played.

Team Canada lead Steve Gould, who won a world championship with Stoughton in 1996 and is attempting to do so again here this week, said Stoughton's teetotalling in a sport where hard drinking used to be the norm has to have played a role in why the Team Canada skip is still curling at the highest levels.

"Obviously your mind is a lot more focused when you're not doing those things," Gould said here yesterday. "Most bad decisions are made in life when you've had a few cocktails. He doesn't make too many bad ones."

Stoughton has never drank alcohol, although he does admit to "having sips here and there" -- including once when his teammates offered him $20 to take one sip out of a beer.

While a sober life -- or at least a more balanced life -- is increasingly the norm in a sport that was once infamous for its hard partying, Stoughton's lifestyle is still unusual enough in curling that he admits to sometimes having to be the designated driver -- for the designated driver.

"I've been the DD for a lot of (team) drivers, trust me," Stoughton said. "It's fun. We get a driver, he picks us up and by the first day he figures out what's going on. And by the end of the day, I'm dropping him off at his house and taking the guys to the hotel.

"And then the next morning we go pick him up."

At 47, Stoughton is just three years removed from seniors curling and is now in his fourth decade of competitive curling, having won Canadian titles in mixed curling in the 80's, a world men's title and two Briers in the 90's and now another Brier in this young decade.

He's always been a fitness buff -- he likes to run -- and that put him a bit ahead of a curve in a sport that has only really embraced fitness as a part of the regimen since the introduction of curling as an official Olympic sport in 1998.

And as the years have advanced, Stoughton says so too has his own fitness regimen. "Even 15 years ago, I wasn't doing as much off-ice activity as I am now. It's just part of getting older and wanting to enjoy the kids and enjoy playing and everything else. And not just be sitting on the couch.

"It's a lifestyle choice -- whether you want to just sit back and relax or be involved. And I want to be involved."

He's certainly been involved here, leading all skips in shooting percentage with an 89 percent average and leading a team that continues to find new ways to win.

Canada simply wore down Korea Monday morning, playing a conservative, high-percentage game but relentlessly applying pressure until skip Dong Keun Lee cracked and Canada had a 7-4 victory.

And then last night against USA's Pete Fenson, they had to manufacture a late-ends comeback. Tied 3-3 but without the hammer, Canada stole the ninth and tenth ends and a 5-3 victory with a combination of perfectly placed stones and an American skip who wilted under the pressure.

Stoughton shot a sizzling 97 percent against Fenson and tossed in a spinarama on a throw-through in the seventh end for good measure.

The two victories send Canada into today tied for first place with Scotland's Tommy Brewster. Canada plays Scotland here tonight, but first must take on France's Thomas Dufour this afternoon.

Dufour is in third place at 4-1 following a 6-5 victory last night over Norway, while Sweden's Niklas Edin and Switzerland's Christof Schwaller are tied for fourth place at 3-2.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2011 C1

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