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Gunnlaugson opts out of Manitoba playdowns

Feels uncomfortable with ongoing COVID situation, won’t compete under non-bubble conditions

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Jason Gunnlaugson has made consecutive Brier appearances but won’t pursue a third.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/01/2022 (305 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jason Gunnlaugson has made consecutive Brier appearances but won’t pursue a third.

The veteran skip indicated Sunday he won’t play in the Manitoba men’s curling championship, set to begin in just over a week. On his personal Twitter account, the 37-year-old Winnipegger said he isn’t comfortable competing at the Viterra championship at the Selkirk Curling Club, owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gunnlaugson,who guides a Morris-based team of third Adam Casey of Charlottetown, P.E.I., second Matt Wozniak and lead Connor Njegovan, said several of his family members and others in his “immediate circle” haven’t been able to receive timely medical treatment during the health crisis. With the current Omicron wave and a surge in hospitalizations in Canada, “I personally cannot reconcile playing non-bubbled and non-tested curling tournaments at his time,” he said.

The comments were in response to emails sent over the weekend by Curl Manitoba to the 28 competing teams. The federation noted it did its due diligence and made the decision to go forward with the event, with the support of Sport Manitoba.

“… The Viterra Championship aligns with the current Public Health Orders,” the email said. “Additional safety protocols will be implemented to help ensure the safety and health of all involve, therefore the competition will look a little different for this ticketed event.”

The championship can proceed under Manitoba’s current health orders, said Curl Manitoba executive director Craig Baker.

The Selkirk club will be capped at 50-per-cent spectator capacity.

Gunnlaugson’s teammates are still contemplating whether or not to to forge ahead without him.

Athletes will practise Tuesday, Feb. 8. The five-day championship begins Wednesday, Feb. 9 and wraps up with the final on Sunday, Feb. 13. The winner represents Manitoba at the Brier in Lethbridge, Alta., in March.

Gunnlaugson captured the 2020 Manitoba title, the last time the championship was staged. A year later, he was appointed by Curl Manitoba and wore the buffalo at the Brier inside the Calgary bubble last March.

His team got off to a solid start to the 2021-22 season, winning the pre-trials in late October in Liverpool, N.S., to qualify for the Canadian Olympic Trials. However, they finished with a disappointing 2-6 record in Saskatoon.

They hauled their broom bags to Morris in early December and own the DEKALB SuperSpiel, and have continued to train, on and off the ice, since then.

But Gunnlaugson’s competitive season is effectively over, despite the fact his team would be a favourite in Selkirk. Failing that, the foursome sits fifth on the Canadian Team Ranking System and would almost assuredly earn a wild-card spot in the Lethbridge Brier.

“I take my role as a teammate and a leader very seriously and it breaks my heart to potentially let my teammates down in some of the biggest tournaments of the year,” Gunnlaugson wrote. “To preserve the integrity of the Wild Card process, I will also not participate in the Brier as a Wild Card this year if I do not participate in the Viterra tournament.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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