Simple diversion

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

Winning an Olympic gold medal can change your life, all right. It\'s just a matter of to what degree.

Win the 100 metres, particularly as an American, and you\'re talking mega-endorsements. Bring home a hockey gold to this country, and you\'ll probably have a job for the rest of your life, if you want one.

If you happen to be from Norway, and you reach the top of the podium in curling, the changes to your lifestyle are a little more subtle.

Pal Trulsen, skip of Team Norway here at the World Curling Championships, is the man most likely to challenge Canada\'s Randy Ferbey.

He\'s also the guy who knocked off Alberta\'s Kevin Martin to steal gold at Salt Lake City a year ago.

To get an idea of how Trulsen\'s life has changed since then, you need to go back to before the Olympic Games.

It was the 2001 Norwegian championship, and Trulsen\'s team was in the playoffs.

\"When we played the semifinal, we arrived to the arena and we were the only ones there,\" Trulsen recalled. \"So we had to unlock the door and scrape the ice and start playing. And the umpire arrived in the sixth end.\"

Did we mention it was Trulsen himself who had to pebble the ice before the game?

Such was the state of curling in the land of the fjord.

And last year, the season after Trulsen\'s Olympic triumph?

\"It was strange last year,\" he said, describing the remarkable turnaround. \"For the first game, there were two spectators, three TV stations and 13 reporters.\"

By the time the final rolled around, there were as many as 50 people at the club.

OK, so it\'s not quite up there with the Brier, or even a Manitoba provincial. The point is, it\'s better than it used to be.

But Trulsen, a 40-year-old electrical engineer with a cigarette habit and a bum left knee, makes it clear he has no desire to be a famous athlete. He\'s played this game for two decades now, and is perfectly comfortable with it being a simple diversion.

Not that he didn\'t enjoy putting curling on the map back home, albeit for a short time, last winter.

\"If you\'re going to win one tournament, it\'s probably the right one to win,\" Trulsen said. \"Especially in Norway, such a big winter sport country.

\"I think the gold in curling was the gold that got the most attention back home, because it was so surprising. We don\'t normally have curling on TV... I think we had close to two million people watching the game at two o\'clock at night. So now, everybody knows about curling. And they probably don\'t laugh at curlers anymore.\"

That\'s right, curling was seen as kind of a novelty item in Norway, a sport to be \"taken out of the closet every four years for the Olympics,\" as Trulsen put it.

Makes you wonder how Trulsen and his pals not only got interested in the game, but good at it. Next to their Olympic gold, this same foursome has a silver medal from last year\'s worlds and a bronze from \'01.

Trulsen says it all started when he was a kid in school.

\"Our teacher was a real curling fanatic. So we could choose from different things, like German, history, religion or curling. So it was pretty easy, eh?\"

He learned pretty early on, too, in what part of the world the sport really mattered. As a junior, he\'d take part in clinics put on by a travelling Winnipegger named Ray Turnbull, currently TSN\'s curling analyst.

So to come play here for the first time is quite a thrill.

You\'ll have to excuse him, though, if he finds himself gawking up at the crowd during his first game today.

\"Looking at the arena, it looks pretty scary,\" Trulsen said. \"It\'s so huge.\"


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