Look who wears the pants: Canadian men beat Norway to win Olympic curling gold medal

By Janie Mccauley, AP
Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canadian men defeat Norway to take curling gold

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canada won the gold medal in its No. 2 sport of curling, with Kevin Martin’s men defeating a Norwegian foursome that charmed the Olympics with its celebrated flamboyant pants.

The 6-3 victory Saturday gave Canada its 13th gold medal, matching the mark for the most by any nation at a Winter Olympics — and it gave Martin the title he has coveted for so long.

“Today and all week he was amazing,” Canadian second Marc Kennedy said. “We had an all-around good team game today, and you couldn’t have it at a better time.”

Martin’s last rock didn’t have to score, and it bumped one other opposing stone. The captain then threw his arms into the air, at last securing this championship in a storied career. Teammate John Morris grabbed a flag from his sister, Sarah, and brought it onto the ice.

Earlier, Switzerland beat Sweden 5-4 for the bronze medal.

This was the second straight Olympic gold for the Canadian men curlers, although Martin was not the skip in Turin.

“Very, very happy. It’s a dream come true,” Martin said. “A lot of hard work and a lot of years to get it done. We made it one step further up that podium.”

This team went 11-0, capping the run with a commanding victory before a raucous sellout crowd that clanged cowbells, honked like Canadian geese and madly waved the Maple Leaf. Fans broke into the national anthem in the 10th end, Martin’s eyes clearly reflecting the emotion of the moment.

Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud told his team all tournament long to just have a ball in these games, and it brought out the best in this bunch. Christoffer Svae picked out the loud, diamond-print golf pants that instantly turned these curlers into cult heroes across the globe.

On this day — with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the building — the pants didn’t dance. King Harald V of Norway was a no-show.

“I thought we couldn’t lose in these pants. But, hey, man,” Ulsrud said. “Those guys, they played brilliant today. We played not our best game, and that’s just how good those guys are.”

Martin, the 43-year-old “Old Bear,” delivered eight years after a heartbreaking miss on his final offering of the Salt Lake City Olympics that was heavy by an inch — a loss to the Norwegians no less.

Martin’s team became the first since curling returned as a medal sport in 1998 to go unbeaten on the way to gold. The only other time it happened was in 1924, when Britain stayed perfect in a four-team event that was later ruled part of the official Olympic program.

Martin waited just short of a decade for another chance at the top place on the podium. This time, he didn’t miss.

He came through a day after Cheryl Bernard and Canada’s women fell short on their final rock to send Sweden to a second straight Olympic gold as 6.8 million Canadians watched.

With Norway sitting three in the house in the seventh, Martin settled a red rock right on the button with his next-to-last throw. Ulsrud then failed to knock Martin’s stone far enough away and Martin’s last shot was perfect to score two for a 5-2 lead.

Martin didn’t have his best day at 78-percent shooting, but he converted a big one to the innermost circle in the ninth and knocked away a great shot by Ulsrud. That gave Canada a three-point cushion going into the 10th.

Martin’s teammates came to play, too. Morris, shooting third, pulled off a triple takeout in the second end, then a key double takeout in the fifth.

“Get outta town!” he said, pumping his fist. He took out two more Norwegian stones in the eighth, drawing cheers of “Johnny-Mo!”

“John was the MVP today,” Martin said.

Kennedy also had one of his most consistent outings of these Olympics, shooting with 95 percent accuracy.

This team from Edmonton, Alberta, was favored long before the first Olympic rock was thrown, long before Martin’s boys won the Canadian trials in December.

Ulsrud went into the final knowing he had nothing to lose. The Norwegians had already played Martin tough in an extra-end loss on the opening day of competition. They have been thrilled by not only their play but the overwhelming response to their trousers. Those diamond-print pants have their own Facebook page that boasts a half million followers.

Martin’s popularity travels far in Canada. The final ends were shown on the main video board across town at Canada Hockey Place as the first few fans filtered in about 90 minutes before the bronze-medal game between Finland and Slovakia.

Four members of Bernard’s team, minus the skip herself, watched Martin’s match together. They had silver medals around their necks and were alongside Harper. Canadian hockey coach Mike Babcock also came to cheer.

Martin hasn’t ruled out the 2014 Sochi Games, when he would be 47. But it looks as if this is his Olympic finale.

“I’m not done yet,” he said, chuckling and gripping the gold around his neck. “I’m going to play two more years. But it’s sure a nice one to have — the first gold, in front of your home fans and family are here, and friends.”

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