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Curling Pants Mayhem

Very funny stuff coming out of Norway today, as it looks like the World Curling Federation won’t have to make a decision on Team Norway’s new “Shagadelic” flowered pants when the boys arrive later today or tomorrow in Cortina, Italy for the Capital One World Men’s Championship.

The outrageous pants (see yesterday’s blogpost) have already been banned by the Norwegian curling authorities, which includes national coach Ole Ingvaldsen and national team leader – and 2002 Olympic champion – Pål Trulsen (at left, beside team skip Thomas Ulsrud, in this TCN image from Anil Mungal).

Both Ingevaldson and Trulsen wore the original pants in Vancouver, but they clearly don’t want to wear these ones.

“They will not be used in the Worlds. These (colours) have very little to do with Norway. This is also not a fashion show,” Trulsen told VG Nett.

The same night of the team’s media conference on Tuesday, at which they displayed the new pant designs, the association and national team agreed that the psychedelic green pants could not be used. The manufacturer, Loudmouth Golf, has named the design “Shagadelic” which was a “vulgar” term used in the Austin Powers movies.

Click here for a VG Nett video story on the pants, which features interviews with pants supervisor Christoffer Svae and Ulsrud… and also includes Coach Ole on the telephone, giving his reasons for saying no to the pants. In describing the flowered pattern as “most suitable for curtains in an outhouse”, Coach Ole also added that “I think it’s okay to not play in all the world’s colors, but I think it is stupid when girls have just done it. Basically, I concentrate on the game.

“I think it’s a good decision,” said Ingvaldsen. “The point is that here is a team that travels, and those green pants are not Norwegian colours. As a team, I feel this is important. The clown pants in the Olympics were fine, because after all they were in Norwegian colors.”

“The news conference was a little Christoffer Svae stunt, I think,” said Trulsen. “I had not heard anything about this until the press called yesterday. Christoffer would probably like to use floral pants, but I think the NOK (association) isn’t ready for this yet.

“He is a bit impulsive, and that is no problem in principle, but we need to talk a little more together before this happens.”

What about these, Chris?

So, what else is really funny about this story? Two things.

First, the fact that the impossibly tiny curling fraternity in Norway is having this public, media-fuelled spat over the pants is truly hilarious.

“I’m writing an email to the board (of the NOK) right now to ask why the girls could use the disco pants when we cannot use the new pants,” Svae told VG Nett. “I personally think the green pants are fine. I think it’s a bit stupid.

“I’d like signals from the NOK in advance because it was all right with the (Olympic) clown pants. Basically, it is a good idea to get publicity, but they never do that, so we went there.”

The second hilarious item is that the first Olympic pants, the red, white and blue argyle pattern, were ruined in an unfortunate laundry incident. And Loudmouth Golf sold out of the original clown pants design within days of the start of the Olympic curling competition and is only now shipping new product around the world.

“We would like to use the clown pants from the Olympics, but some guys with bad laundry experience washed them, and they turned pink,” explained Trulsen.

“Torger (Nergard) and I made  fools out of ourselves,” admitted Ingvaldsen. “They must be washed at room temperature, but we washed them at 40-45 degrees, and the colours changed. So we needed new pants.”

Of the two new designs, only the blue and white checkered pants will be won in Cortina, while the other pair of Olympic argyle pants – which are in red, white and gray – will replace the Shagadelics.

Finally, why not vote YEA or NAY for the pants? Head back to the VG Nett story and look at one of the little boxes under the video player, which is a poll asking “How do you like the new clown pants?” (Hvordan liker du curlingguttas nye klovnebukser?)

Here, we’ll help you vote… in Norwegian!

Huff, de ser ikke bra ut (Ugh, they do not look good)
De er kjempefine (They are super fine)

Then click STEM (VOTE) in the little grey box, and watch the results pop up!

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This is why we love the Brier

by Margo Weber

CCA photos by Michael Burns (click to zoom in)

See ya later, asterisk. Hello Team Canada!

It’s the morning after Team Alberta’s big win at the Brier and I’m still rewinding tape. I am an insomniatic (is that a word?) curling-obsessed lunatic. Ha.

That was the best Brier finish I’ve seen in my lifetime, and it should go down with the very best finishes of any curling game ever. It gave me the chills and STILL gets my heart racing when I think about how hard I screamed at the TV and waited for Carter Rycroft’s little head to move so I could really see who was shot rock.

And what a reaction. The team went ballistic, and I love that. Amid the bedlam, Carter grabbed his skip Kevin Koe by his bald head and screamed “What a boy!” Blake MacDonald and Nolan Thiessen went bonkers. The wives jumped up and down in disbelief. Jamie Koe hugged his brother’s wife Carla in the stands with tears streaming down his face.

And I’ll tell you right now the last person on anyone’s mind watching or playing that game… was Kevin Martin.

As far as I’m concerned, any talk about an ‘asterisk’ beside this Brier winner’s name just because Team Martin did not compete, can be shoved where the sun don’t shine. In fact I didn’t even think once about K-Mart and team until after breakfast this morning. Not to take anything away from their amazing Olympic gold medal, which was indeed amazing. But to me, as I’ve said before, that gold was not surprising. It was almost expected.

This win by Kevin Koe was something people have hoped for, but did not expect. Prior to Sunday night this team has had too many last-stone, last-gasp disappointments hit them at the last second, again and again, and no one seemed willing to put money on them. Their huge Brier victory was dramatic, and it was historic. It was a win against a previously undefeated (12-0) team of Ontario robocurlers, skipped by Glenn Howard (left). It was the first win for a rookie Brier skip since Vic Peters of Manitoba in 1992… just one year after that Martin guy, with a moustache and a head full of hair, did it too. TCN curling Tweep @pjames said this after the first end: So if 90 per cent of teams who score a deuce in the first end go on to win, is there any reason to keep watching the Brier tonight?

Heck, it was the first time a team in the 3-4 Page playoff game has ever gone on to win the Brier.

When a rookie skip draws the button in an extra end to win the world’s most storied curling trophy, it becomes something curling fans will not forget. Was it on the same stage as the Olympic win was in Vancouver? No. This was different. But Kevin Koe and Co. have won a Brier and it was unbelievable.

This Alberta team is colourful, almost too much as times. Midweek I thought a few of them were going to bite each other’s ears off. These guys say things to each other that women’s teams could never get away with. But they settled down mid-week. They picked up play, they picked up each other in their own weird way. And now they are Team Canada and will be off to Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy at the beginning of April for the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championships. They can also book their trips to the Canada Cup in Medicine Hat and the Continental Cup in St. Albert. Both in Alberta. Cool.

In Kevin Koe’s post-game interview with TSN, he was unsurprisingly humble and gave credit to his team and his sweepers for making that shot. When discussing that incredible light-weight hit and roll in the 10th end that killed Howard’s chances to throw for the win, Koe once again used words like ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

Being from Alberta, I’m kind of forced to state the obvious here. Once again a Team from Alberta has come through and won the Brier, the province’s seventh title in the last nine years. Not to mention also fielding both Olympic teams this year (we’re gonna work this for a while, peeps!)

This was an amazing finish for a Brier that was… let’s face it… mediocre.  It wasn’t like last year, where we had so many returning champions you lost count. We didn’t have The Shot… which was followed by The Other Shot. The Gushues didn’t do a goofy TSN game intro video (boooo!) We didn’t have those Dader and Madge chicks running amok with media credentials.

But this Brier was filled with new faces. While I do like that, I also see changes coming. People are always concocting new format suggestions to fix what isn’t necessarily broke, but to make an exciting week even more so. With the success of Team Northern Ontario at this Brier, folks have been once again chatting about the purpose of such a team. (I, for one, understand why Northern Ontario was brought in. It’s a massive province, difficult travel thing. Got it.) But should there be a returning Team Canada?

After this particular Brier win, the concept of a Team Canada makes a lot of sense, considering it’s highly possible that Kevin Martin will just go out and represent Alberta again next year. If so, next year’s fans in London, ON will be asking: where’s Koe? So having something like a Tour winner, a Team Canada, a CTRS points winner, and then a playoff against bottom-ranked provinces is starting to look like a pretty good solution.

There, we’ve covered it all. Amazing win, historic moments, Alberta rocks, Brier format change… what didn’t we talk about? Ah yes. Glenn Howard’s Team Ontario and their absolutely heartbreaking year. I thought Shannon Kleibrink would like to have her year back, but this… yeesh. Nah, I don’t want to think about it. Still too stoked.

This is why I love the Brier.

[Ed note: curling fans from around the world can watch highlights and/or the entire game on the TSN.ca Video-On-Demand service, located here – select VOD: Final: ON vs. AB to view the game]

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More on TSN, and a prediction

by Margo Weber

There is so much amazing curling info bouncing around. Did you know, for example, that new curling clubs are sprouting up again stateside – such as in Charlotte, North Carolina – and there are efforts underway in Las Vegas, St. Louis and… Atlanta?

(Hint: I got all this from The Curling News Twitter feed… including a funny story about the Chinese Olympic men’s curling skip getting in big trouble when he arrived home in China. So follow it, or lose out, people!)

What is also amazing is that really curious Americans, Europeans, South Americans and everybody else can watch the great Brier curling coverage we get in Canada, through the TSN Video On Demand service. That’s right… my editor tells me that the games which are thrown onto the website after each live broadcast are not being geoblocked outside of Canada. And this means that the worldwide curling obsession can continue! Marvellous!

Go here and look on the right for the list of VOD games you can watch. And you may want to start with this one here, Alberta vs Newfoundland. Just a suggestion.

There has also been much debate, and lots of it right here on this blog, about the TSN TV curling commentators. The feedback thus far suggests that the newfangled team of Russ Howard and Bryan Mudryk, which handles the morning games, is perhaps a breath of fresh air in comparison to Vic Rauter, Linda Moore and Ray Turnbull, a threesome that has been teamed up as the main crew for over twenty years.

I’m an avid curling watcher. I would looove to be one of those people that go to the Brier and watch it in person every year. But there are plusses to sometimes watching from home. You learn about the players, and hear different opinions on shot calls. Besides, it’s easy to get distracted in the stands when you have four simultaneous games to watch and a beer in your hand.

By now I kind of feel like I know the commentators. Is that crazy? Never met them… still I feel like I’ve gotten to know these folks on a semi-personal level. And I’ve even grown fond of Ray at times. This is his last year, mind you. So in my own review, herewith, I’m going to be nice…. haha! But nobody else is getting off that easy. Not even Russ Howard, who by the way tends to read this blog. Hey, Russ. Whutsup.

With Ray departing at the end of the season, this possibly opens up a spot on the commentating teams. Who would fill such a spot, you ask? Aha. I shall answer, at the end of this blogpost, about who I think it may be.

For now, let’s discuss the commentators.

Linda Moore – I like her, I don’t love her. She’s pretty serious and doesn’t have the pizzazz that perhaps curling needs to continue the youthful rap it got after the Olympics. She is knowledgeable, but I would love to see a bit more light-hearted scrapping about shot decisions. Perhaps with a change in broadcast members I’ll get my wish.

Vic Rauter – I don’t mind Vic. I think viewers feel that he’s predictable and a bit cheesy. I’m quite sure he knows more than he lets on. But he makes me chuckle and I’m okay with him for awhile. We do tend to hear the same things over and over with this crew. We know Vic’s favourite moment in life is when he gets to say ‘… and he backs it up!’

Ray Turnbull – Adios, Moosie. This guy picks his favorites. Hello, I GET the infatuations with Jill Officer and Susan O’Connor. But if he calls Susan ‘this lady’ one more time I’m going to encourage him to actually have a drink with her. Lady she is not. Love ya, Sue.

Russ Howard – I’m giving this one some time, although he definitely deserves the ‘most improved’ award. His Olympics coverage was more enjoyable and informative than at the Canadian Olympic Trials. He is good for the odd one-liner such as ‘That wasn’t plan B, that was plan Zed.’ Hahaha! He calls ’em as he sees ’em and we need more humour like that. Russ is always predicting the outcome of shots… ‘He’ll make this perfectly, here it comes. Oh… um… just a nose. Needed more ice.’ It’s actually kind of funny. At present time I would say Russ is my man.

Bryan Mudryk – Totally cool. I think he’ll get more comfortable with experience. I like how he’s interested in the personal aspect of the players. He also poses insightful questions to Russ. He ain’t no dummy.

Cathy Gauthier – Okay, she’s seriously professional and knows what she’s talking about without relying on stats. She comes off, however, too rehearsed. And perhaps a little boring.

So. With Ray’s departure, it’s widely believed that Russ moves up to the night time crew. Who replaces Russ? Surely we can’t have Cathy and Brian in the mornings? Someone else must come into the mix.

I know who. I would bet a dozen cupcakes on it that Cheryl Bernard will be asked to consider commentating for TSN. Will she say yes? No idea. She’s probably itching to winter down south and still has some curling left in her without a doubt. But will she be asked? Of course she will. TSN would be crazy not to at least try to capitalize on the hype she created at the Olympics.

That’s my TSN review. With a future talent prediction. Agree? Disagree?

[CCA photo by Michael Burns]

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Olympic Gong Show

by Teri Lake

HALIFAX – Greetings from the Brier!

It’s Haliblogstress extraordinaire who normally writes for the paper version of this here Curling News thing but, when an event like the Brier makes its way to your hometown, the best ticket in town is right here, blogging to you guys. So here we go.

In case you’re wondering why the heck I’m just surfacing now, considering it’s already Day Two, it’s because I’ve been touring this city the last few days, and getting mobbed everywhere I go. The insanity, unfortunately, isn’t for me… but I’ve been happy to be along for the ride .

When the Brier host committee asked me to assist Team Kevin Martin – aka Team Canada, aka Olympic gold medallists – during their promo visit to Halifax, it’s not like I even had to think about it. At all.

Kevin, Johnny Mo, Marc and Benny landed Thursday night and Oh. My. God. It’s been a gong show, to say the least, and I’ve seen everything from well-wishing handshakes to trembling, tearful teenaged girls.

On the docket was a mammoth autograph session (CCA photo by Michael Burns, click to increase size), news conference, Brier Opening Ceremony and interview after interview, but one of the highlights was a visit to the IWK Children’s Hospital.

The guys first met Jennifer Butts at the Port Hawkesbury-hosted Grand Slam event some five years ago. At the time, Jennifer was a healthy young teen with an appetite for curling and she was also a temporary neighbor to the visiting Martin team’s rental house.

Unfortunately Jennifer got sick a few years ago, but has kept in touch with the team. Orchestrated by her mom, they guys were able to surprise Jennifer with a visit, right here in Halifax, and just prior to her 19th birthday.

Throughout it all, the guys have been fantastic. Their profile is so huge right now and previously mundane tasks, like grabbing a double-double from Tim’s, is a massive undertaking with the fan frenzy that occurs. What’s most impressive is how genuinely gracious they are, and how important it is to them to make sure every hand is shook, autograph signed, photo taken and medal passed around, as much as possible.

They want to share their gold medals with Canada in exchange for the overwhelming support they felt from an entire nation, And from what I’ve seen during this whirlwind visit, Halifax is very happy to share it back.

Stay tuned tomorrow for actual Brier updates!

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Olympics and The Brier

by Margo Weber

And now to reflect on the events of the past week, re. the Olympics in Vancouver, and get geared up for The Brier.

(To any new American curling fans who have stumbled on this blog in their search for curling info, the Brier is the annual Canadian men’s curling championship, which starts on Saturday March 6, ends nine days later, is all over the TV airwaves and is awesome.)

My trip was short, and it was bittersweet. I went to Vancouver with one goal in mind, to cheer on my friend Susan O’Connor and her Team Canada crew. gk wrote in his blogpost about the massive amount of Olympic pressure that we saw here and mentioned that neither the men’s nor women’s final games were really that well-played. However, the women’s certainly was exciting.

The problem with this process is that you go into the final game knowing you’ve won either a silver or gold. So there’s typically a major feeling of loss for the silver medal ‘winning’ team that is obviously on the losing side. Or that’s the way it’s supposed to feel.

I realize this is going to sting Team Cheryl Bernard for a long time. But for me, as a Canadian, a fan and a friend… I didn’t feel that huge sense of loss. As soon as that last rock was thrown and missed, and Sweden’s Eva Lund planted her trademark smooch on the kisser of her skip Anette Norberg, our team got together as a team and hugged and smiled.

I have a hard time thinking of too many teams that would have reacted so classily in this situation. They acknowledged the crowd, they didn’t pout, they put on those grins we’ve been seeing all week, and man… was I proud to be a Canadian at that moment.

There was a little reception at Canada House for the girls after that game, and about 200 friends and family waited for them to arrive. We watched some gold medal-winning speed skating races, and we saw the men’s hockey team squeak out their win over Slovakia.

By the time the girls arrived, the mood was so light that there was spontaneous eruption of our national anthem right there on the top floor of the downtown Bay store. And it was loud.

During the closing ceremonies the first Canadian athletes you saw marching out, hand-in-hand with each other, were the curlers from Team Canada… and again, with huge smiles on their faces (it’s amazing how easy it is to spot Cheryl Bernard in a crowd. I think it’s safe to say that her partner Terry – or a hired gun– will be doing most of the grocery shopping  for a while!).

On the men’s side, I am thrilled that Kevin Martin and team finally have their crowning glory. Have you ever seen Kevin Martin this happy (photo by Anil Mungal, click image to increase size)? It’s like a giant weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Very cool. I really liked that team all week, and never doubted in my mind they would win the gold. I hope to now see a cooler, more relaxed Kevin Martin out there. There are retirement rumours everywhere, but it is not going to happen. Both of these teams will stick around for at least next year and who knows after that.

I probably sound a little less interested in the men’s side of this tourney. I was just so biased towards the women’s side. However, we’re just two days away from my FAVORITE event of the year, the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier and that means I will soon be ALL about the men.

I am beyond stoked for this event. For me, the Brier isn’t about having the 10 best teams. It’s about province against province, and the cool stories and new stars that come about. Man, the Brier is fun (who knows what those wacky Gushues are going to do for this year’s TSN intro?). I wish I could go hang out in the patch and have a few Keiths’ (um, like last year? – Ed). But alas, pregnancy calls and I will enjoy TVs Linda, Vic, Ray, Bryan and Russ from the comfort of my very cozy couch. Will send some thoughts your way.

For those of you in Halifax who will miss Team Martin, the defending Brier champions who are of course not competing in this Brier, they will be there tomorrow and Saturday for a series of special guest appearances… one of which is an interactive Up Close and Personal session from ice level.

So at least you can plan to get a picture of yourself taking a big bite out of that big gold medal!

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The Golden Bear

John Morris is believed to be the man credited for Kevin Martin‘s nickname, “The Old Bear”. As the story goes, Morris tossed the reference into a media quote some six or seven years ago after KMart had made an incredible shot to beat Morris at a World Curling Tour event.

A few years later, Martin, Morris, ex-Morris second Marc Kennedy and ex-Saskatchewan curler Ben Hebert are good as gold, following a 6-3 Olympic curling championship victory over Norway’s Fancy Pants, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud.

If you read our women’s recap, you know that we are solid believers in the concept of Olympic curling pressure. We submit to you, dear reader, that the men’s final provided further proof.

Neither team played “great”. Canada blew a deuce in the very first end which, for this powerhouse team, is almost unheard of. Then they were held to a single in the second end. As we wrote on our Twitter feed: Kevin Martin is grouchy. Front-enders and Johnny Mo apologize. Don’t miss feeding time for the Old Bear, little cubs!

Even worse, the front end was blowing sweeping calls. That. Definitely. Never. Happens.

As today’s Toronto Star quoted the Canadians:

“Come on, guys. Geez,” Martin scolded. “Don’t need to jump on that thing.”

Kennedy shot back: “Well, you say hurry right away, it’s not our fault.”

Replied Martin: “Sorry.”

After a Norwegian blank, Canada made up for the snafus with a steal in the fourth end… and another steal in the fifth for a 3-0 lead. Looking at Martin’s demeanour, however, you’d think he was losing. Again, we Tweeted: Canada leads 3-0 at the break, but all is not well with the home team. Coaches must calm the Old Bear and unwind his young cubs.

Things improved after that. KMart practically ran off the field of play – presumably to hit the washroom – so perhaps that helped.

The Pants came alive after the break, scoring the first deuce of the match, but Team Canada – led by a fiery Morris – began to leverage their lead. Down 3-2 would be as close as the Norwegians got, and despite one late-game shriek from Martin (WHOA, Morris!) feeding time finished without incident.

Gold for Canada. Gold for Kevin Martin, the most stubborn mule in curling, who takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Gold for the Golden Bear, who has finally vanquished his demons… and those demons were stubborn mules, too.

Forget Salt Lake silver. The demons go well back to the Winnipeg Worlds in 1991, and Martin’s silver-gilded loss to Scotland, in the event known as Broomgate. And before that, the World Juniors in 1986… Martin’s first-ever global defeat in the final, again to Scotland, again for silver.

The Bear now has two golds – 2010 Olympic and 2008 World – to go with an impressive pile of silver, bronze and nearly $2 million in career Tour winnings. Is he the greatest of all time? Is he really, as U.S. skip John Shuster declared, “the Michael Jordan of curling”?

We shall not answer, because Martin is not yet done. Afterward, he declared that his team will carry on for a couple of years at least, but Sochi 2014 – when Martin would be 47 years old – is not at all a certainty.

“I’m not retiring yet, but we’ll see. We’re definitely going to be playing for a few more years with this exact same team. I know I will be the first guy off this team. I just don’t know when that’ll be.”

As for Norway, oh Wonderful Pants? There was more to this team than met the… er, eye. It’s yet another silver for Ulsrud and Co. but this one is Olympic, scored against one of the greatest teams of all time, and it shines brightly. The only downside for Norway is that they, too, did not play their best in the final, meaning it could have been closer… and Canada could have become more frazzled… and then… who knows?

Stay on top of our Twitter page, in the days and weeks to come, for more on the post-Olympic curling haze. We will be watching the athletes upon their return home; the epic Canadian men’s championship, the Brier, beginning March 6; the women’s and men’s Worlds to follow; and also to Vancouver’s effect on curling around the world, including the enraptured U.S. market.

You’ll also want to check our Facebook Group page (The Curling News) for some fantastic Olympic photos coming soon, and you will want to subscribe to our 53-year-old newspaper, The Curling News, as the March issue – being rushed to press in two days’ time – will contain even more stories and images from Vancouver 2010.

And, of course, there will be more on this here Curling News Blog… coming soon!

[Photos copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click each image to increase size]

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Olympic Pressure Takes a Toll

The most fascinating thing to come out of yesterday’s seesaw, nailbiting Olympic women’s curling final is a question:

Will either of today’s men’s finalist teams wilt under the Olympic pressure?

If curlers and curling fans ever doubted the very existence of “Olympic pressure” in their sport before, they must accept it now.

Look what we had here, at the rollicking Vancouver Olympic Centre. And think about it.

Olympic rookies who had, by and large, played over and above any pressure gauges for nearly two weeks… and same for an earlier week of Olympic Trials competition. The Canadian back end of skip Cheryl Bernard and third Susan O’Connor had, in particular, looked like Olympic veterans. Tight games? No sweat. Conservative strategy leading deliberately to tight games? No sweat. These girls looked like they were having fun. Betcha they were.

But it all came crashing down in the semis, and then in the final. Tentative releases, missed weight calls, errant shots and a new kind of nailbiting for their fans and followers. This was different. There were cracks in their force field. And it was there for all to see.

Sure, there were heroics. Bernard drawing against piles of Swedish granite in the early going, saving her team’s bacon. Gutsy. But still, things felt different.

As for the victorious Swedes… they weren’t much better. The Olympic veterans, the most decorated women’s curling team in history, went from a steamrolling semifinal juggernaut to a mental mess as the final wore on. The efficiency of two early deuces following Canadian mistakes began to evaporate as nearly every soft inturn curled off the sheet. By the time Norberg threw her draw against two Canadian stones in the seventh, she had lost it, and the stone fell far short.

Canada, heartened by this development, gained strength. Another gift steal, and a padded lead. Sweden’s strategy in the 10th end was, in a word, abysmal, whereas Canada’s choice to leave multiple stones in the house was merely foolish. Still, needing two to tie the match, Norberg left the door open and only a miss from O’Connor made a jam opportunity a reality and… it was, inevitably, up to The Curling Gods to decide: would Canada win, or would there be an extra end?

We all know what happened: Bernard missed a not-quite routine shot, on a newish patch of ice… but still, yet more evidence of this Olympic pressure thing.

In the extra frame, Canadian lead Cori Bartel wilted, and despite some hitting heroics from Carolyn Darbyshire, Team Norberg were pinching themselves. Junk everywhere, just what they dreamed of. Another miss from O’Connor. More junk out front.

In the end, Bernard had another shot for the win. A double takeout, but she knew she could save her shooter. It was right there, for the second time. But she missed again.

Norberg and her troops – the firecracker Eva Lund, Norberg’s sister Cathrine Lindahl and longtime lead Anna Le Moine (nee Svard nee Bergstrom) – are the world’s best, but at times they didn’t look good at all. Their mid-game switch from confident robotics to staggering confusion was shocking. Regardless, they have the history and the resume to back up this back-to-back Olympic gold.

As for the Canadians, they accomplished far more, dating back to the Trials in December, than was expected by many a pundit. They had a plan and they stuck to it. They picked each other up, constantly working a magical team dynamic to perfection. They experienced something firsthand, in front of teeming and screaming home crowds, that will never be experienced again. And after all those rassles with the pressure over the final days, they could still taste gold, on the last stone, on the final throw.

All in all, it made for thrilling and compelling sport theatre.

What are we in store for today?

[Photos copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click to increase size]

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Norberg The Greatest Ever?

This blogpost is all about the Swedes. Well, almost all of it.

First up on Day 11 is the Bronze Medal Game, featuring China versus Switzerland. Bingyu Wang versus Mirjam Ott. The defending world champion Chinese now admit they were looking ahead to the Gold Medal Game in yesterday’s semifinal battle with Sweden (photo), and that is an obvious no-no. The semi result was a reversal of last year’s world final in Korea, and now the Wang Gang must regroup to face a very disappointed Swiss side, which also lost their incredibly sloppy semifinal with Canada.

Yesterday we speculated that Ott, riding a six-game winning streak, was going to come out gangbusters against the Canadians, who would have to be on top of their game. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as both squads struggled.

The Swiss summed up the afternoon perfectly in the fateful 10th end. First, the two-time and defending Olympic silver medallist Ott navigated a tough port with an amazing shot, only to miss a wide-open hit on her next effort (she rolled out) for two points and the extra end.

Which brings us to the Swedes.

Anette Norberg and Co. may very well be the greatest curling team in history. Olympic gold, two world championships and a huge number of European championship titles constitutes a remarkable resumé, and we can now add Olympic silver – at minimum – to that tally.

Gold would merely make it a landslide.

The squad has had a tricky 3.5 years. They captured the 2006 world crown just weeks after their Torino triumph, but then played poorly at the Aomori worlds in 2007, and missed the 2008 worlds entirely. They did make the 2009 worlds final against China, but had a spare player at lead stone.

The squad did capture another European crown but then lost the 2008 final to Ott – and in Sweden, no less – and finished way back in fifth position this past December. A photo of Norberg in the crowd during the playoff games – knitting – didn’t do much to curb speculation that the team had lost some focus.

Ditto their fall results on the Champions Tour (the European version of the World Curling Tour) which tailed off, after previous solid play.

All this is now water under the bridge. The close-knit foursome started strongly, recovered from a minor mid-schedule swoon and thumped China in the semis to book their return to the championship final. Now, the lure of gold glitters once again.

Their return to the final has certainly been quiet. Much attention has been focussed on Canada, and specifically the home team’s “Curlgar” skip. The sheer volume of newbie curling media – both traditional and social, and much of it U.S.-based – has far, far outweighed any column inches dedicated to the Swedes.

In fact, all we’ve seen with any regularity is a slow but steady rediscovery of their pre-Turin 2006 music video with heavy metal thrashers Hammerfall, in all its awesomeness, which can be seen here. If this intrigues you to no end, be advised that The Curling News was the first media outlet in the world to promote this outside of Sweden (here) and we followed it up with their first live concert appearance here, and here, and a little Joan Jett action here.

Let us conclude with this thought. Canada’s Cheryl Bernard foursome has managed to qualify for the Gold Medal Final despite some very conservative strategy, some misses along the way and a surprisingly poor performance in the semi. It stands to reason they’ll need to bear down in the chase for gold.

Because they’re playing against the best women’s team that curling has ever seen.

[Sweden photo copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click on image to increase size]

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Olympic Curling TV Mayhem

Wow. What an impressive screenshot sent to us from a Swiss curling fan – and high-performance curling athlete, actually – whom we will mysteriously refer to only as “Playah” (click image to increase size).

According to Playah, he – like many über-curling fans around the world – got very little sleep these past two weeks while the Olympic curling competition was on television and the interweb. In his case, Playah went a few steps further and managed to get no less than three live curling games onto his computer desktop at the same time… plus a statistics widget, and two other Olympic streams.

Buh. Duhhrrrggddd. Fffffvvvt.

That’s what we think we would be saying (ie. grunting) after just a couple of days of this… never mind 11 consecutive days, and counting.

For the record, Playah reveals that these streams come from eurosportvision.tv, Swiss Television (SF.TV) and Zattoo, a TV Channel internet app. He also expresses great indignation that Canada’s online stream, at CTVOlympics.ca, is geoblocked from his viewing enjoyment.

All of this stuff on his desktop is absolutely free, of course.

What are your Olympic Curling TV Mayhem Stories? How many hours in a row did you go? How many channels/streams? Did your remote control break? Did you watch at a biker bar?

As for the main event itself, it is now the 12th day, the next to last day, and we will soon have some heavy medals to hand out. Please do check back with The Curling News Blog later on for our take on today’s women’s Bronze- and Gold-Medal games, just hours away…

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Going CRAZY for Olympic curling

NOTE: ace TCN blogstar Margo Weber is some nine hours away from arriving in Vancouver to cheer on Canada’s curling teams… and has decided that today’s semifinals are driving her bonkers!

by Margo Weber

AAIIGGHHH! I’m going crazy!

But I’m also pondering. What game is BIGGER… the Semi at the Olympics? Or the Gold Medal Final?

Toughie…. this is a big game this morning for Cheryl Bernard’s Team Canada. Is THIS the biggest game she’ll ever play in her life? Or was it the Olympic Trials Final, just to get here? Or will her big game be the Gold Medal Final… IF they are in it?

Lets see. The Trials win made Team Bernard Olympians. A win today means they are Olympic Medallists, as they are guaranteed gold or silver. Losing may mean not medalling at all. But if they win today, and win tomorrow afternoon… Olympic GOLD medallists.

The lives of Cheryl Bernard, Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel will be forever changed, regardless. But with Olympic gold…?

Okay, so let’s play a little game.

What would you rather accomplish? Win the Scotties or Brier, represent Canada at the Worlds and WIN it?

… or …

Represent Canada at the Olympics…. and win, let’s say… the bronze?

Let’s make it tougher. Would you rather go to the Worlds and win gold? Or… go to the Olympics… and not medal at all?

See? Tough little questions for the average curler with an imagination.

Not that any of us HAVE this choice. But a fun game to play nonetheless.

As for the real curling, Cheryl just missed a couple and I’m going crazy AGAIN. It’s a 3-3 tie with the Swiss.

I believe the four most obvious women’s teams made the playoffs. Yay, for me seeing as I have tickets for the gold and bronze games. Couldn’t have turned out more perfect, really, with Sweden, China, Switzerland and Canada. It is the Olympics, and none of these four teams would surprise me. But in my heart I’m feeling some Canadian magic.

As for the mens, yeesh. David Murdoch. I have no words. I don’t.

However, I said after the Trials that Kevin Martin was going to win gold. I’ll stick with that. And I really hope they do. I’ve never really been a Kevin Martin fan, but this week he hasn’t really complained about the rocks or ice. When things go his way he’s pretty likeable to the random spectator.  And this team is so good. So, so, so good. And they’re being completely overshadowed by Cheryl Bernard… so go get ’em boys!

I wonder if they’ll do the medal ceremonies at the arena or at BC Place? I didn’t get tickets for BC Place, gotta look into that.

Now excuse me, I have to go try on my life-sized Canada flag. Hope it still fits.

[Photo of Team Switzerland copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click to increase size]