Kevin Martin and his Canadian rink take gold in Olympic men's curling
We arrive at Vancouver Olympic Centre at quarter past three, shortly after the start of the men’s gold-medal curling match between Norway and the undefeated Canadian rink, which boasts a gaudy 10-0 record in the tournament. Canadian skip Kevin Martin has just blanked the first end.
I had no time to visit the media centre beforehand, so I’m missing a copy of the curling glossary that was so helpful to me the last time I was here. I’ll just fake it and see how it goes.
Fortunately, things look familiar out there. Martin and his crew are up against the same Norwegian rink that I saw back on the opening day of curling competition. There are those same Norwegian clown pants.
The other thing I notice immediately is that the medal podium is already set up, about 50 feet from the ice surface. I wonder whether it plays on the minds of the competitors during the quieter moments of the match.
Martin scores one in the second end, following a shot that he seemed unhappy with. Even in this high-pressure situation, though, he always appears in an upbeat frame of mind. And of all the athletes I’ve seen at these Games, he looks like the one I’d turn to for tax advice.
As the end-blanking action continues in the third, the capacity crowd gets restless for the match to take shape. Amid shouts of “Go Canada” and “I believe”, one spectator repeatedly lets out an alarmingly realistic bird call.
Midway through the fourth, however, Canadian John Morris makes a beautiful shot to take out the two Norwegian rocks in scoring position, and leaves Canada lying two. The Norwegians narrowly miss an attempt to return the favour, and moments later Canada is lying three.
The house then launches into a loud, prolonged chorus of boos when a brain-damaged fan of the Canadians blasts an air horn while Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud is launching into a shot. If that guy is here with his wife, she’ll kill him later tonight.
The end, uh, ends when Ulsrud’s final shot comes up a couple of inches short and allows Canada to score one. It’s 2-0. This must be the curling version of what they call “small ball” in baseball—chipping away at your opponent while they’re trying to do bigger things.
Sure enough, Canada scores another in the fifth, after Ulsrud comes up short again with his final shot. Martin also seems to be struggling with his accuracy in this game, but his crew has been doing a very good job of doing what curlers do.
I HAVE A copy of the glossary again. I’ve just been out to grab a lidded cup of tea from the media tent, which sits in the outfield of Nat Bailey Stadium. I needed the caffeine, not because the curling is making me drowsy (though no one is going to confuse it with bobsled), but because these Winter Games are now two weeks old, and the events are getting blurry.
(I have to mention that I also ducked into a men’s room, and during my visit there noticed a sign above the urinals explaining that, for reasons of sustainability, the water in them is non-potable and not fit for consumption. They’ve really thought of everything here at Vancouver Olympic Centre.)
When I return to my seat, just in time for the finale of the sixth end, Ulsrud scores two. The Norwegians are right back in it.
That is, until Martin places his final shot of the next end right on the button, making the score 5-2 Canada.
During this second half of the game, I keep hearing the familiar voice of CTV curling commentator Vic Rauter coming from the rows of broadcasters behind me. Each time I do, I assume I’m overhearing a monitor playing the CTV feed—until I remember that, no, it’s Rauter himself. Very odd.
NORWAY ADDS ONE in the eighth to bring them back into range for the last two ends.
During a long Norwegian strategy discussion in the middle of the ninth, the crowd begins one of those fast-turning waves that this building is good for. The media tables where I’m sitting take up one whole end of the rink, however, so that the wave has a repeated skip in it—until the crowd also begins chanting “Media, media” to shame us into joining. A few journalists oblige and get a huge round of applause.
When play resumes, it’s bird-call man’s turn to wear the mantle of world-class shithead, causing Norwegian shooter Torger Nergaard to stall momentarily.
The end wraps up with Martin slipping a shot past a Norwegian guard and taking out his opponent’s rock on the button. It’s a massive point: the score is 6-3 going into the final end, rather than a sweat-inducing 5-4.
With three rocks each left in the 10th end, the Canadian fans break into an impromptu version of “O Canada”. The gold medal comes down to a simple take-out for Martin, and when he makes it, this little building bursts into a joyful racket.
Photo gallery: Men's curling gold medal game, Canada vs. Norway.