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Stoughton's Oly flame flickering early

Winning five straight unlikely in this field

Skip Jeff Stoughton throws a rock during a game against Team Martin Monday afternoon during the Roar of the Rings.

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Skip Jeff Stoughton throws a rock during a game against Team Martin Monday afternoon during the Roar of the Rings. (MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Jeff Stoughton spat it out with the spirit of defiance he'll need if his Olympic torch isn't to be extinguished this week and likely forever.

"Not yet," said Stoughton, when asked what his response would be if told he was already done upon losing his second game at Olympic Trials. And then again. "Not yet."

In reality, Stoughton's 0-2 start in the seven-game round robin could prove too much to come back from. Winning five games in a row is certainly not impossible for Stoughton's team and over the years he's probably done it routinely. But not against a field like this. Getting to the playoffs, however, will likely require Stoughton not lose again.

"These are the best of the best. You're not playing the B group at the Charleswood," admitted the 50-year-old. "If you're not at the top of your game you're going to get beat. We just have to play better."

Stoughton is Manitoba's greatest men's curler ever but unless he's got a miracle he's about to unfold he will never be an Olympian.

To say Stougton's career will be incomplete without the opportunity to compete for his country at the Olympics would be accurate if not a little cold. He's a Hall of Famer for sure but with a hole in his resume that he might not be able to fill.

"It's something very few people get to participate in and even fewer get to go to the Olympics," said Stoughton. "It would be a void but I wouldn't put my curling career down as a disappointment if I don't get to go. That's for sure."

Ten provincial titles, three Briers and two world championships, Stoughton has almost done it all but it the Olympics may remain elusive for the 50-year-old.

"It's big. The whole team, including myself, have put a lot into this and made a lot of sacrifices," he said. "It's important to us. It's a huge commitment. Something we were all striving for and would dearly like to be a part of."

Stoughton is a realist. He's made hard decisions in his career dispatching teammates when they no longer were helpful to the cause. He's still clinging to the positive.

"Sure we're disappointed that we haven't won a game but we're not getting too down on ourselves," said Stoughton. "We feel we're playing pretty well. It is what it is but we're not eliminated from the event and until we are we have to hold our heads high and play our best."

Stoughton said his team wasn't doing anything particularly poorly and no major adjustments were required. But the time for finding a way to win is now.

"This isn't the start we wanted for the week but we have to move on and play our best Tuesday. We need to think about winning out," he said.

"We've talked after the games and said we'd played worse and won and played better and lost. A little half shot or a little this or that could have made a difference in both our games. We just need to get on the right side of the inch."

Manitoba's other entrant on the men's side is also 0-2. But Mike McEwen is 33 and maybe not even in his prime just yet.

Stoughton, however, would be 54 next time around making now or never a fair statement.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

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