Building for Olys

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Beating Kevin Martin in a World Curling Tour final is great for the confidence.

Doing so at your home club in Oslo, Norway, is bad for the liver.

That was the situation Thomas Ulsrud found himself in back in September, when he thumped the reigning world champion 8-2 to win the $160,000 Oslo Cup.

"All the family and friends were in the home club, so that was the perfect place," Ulsrud said yesterday.

With all those family members and friends in the house, however, it meant they were in the mood to celebrate. The next morning after was a rough one for Ulsrud, but it was a headache he was willing to accept.

In case you haven't heard, Ulsrud is the newest Norwegian curling sensation, taking over for 2002 Olympic gold medallist Pal Trulsen (he beat Martin). Not only that, but Ulsrud is in the running, along with Scotland's Dave Murdoch, to be known as the top men's curler outside Canada.

The 37-year-old has won bronze at two of the last three world championships -- "In Norway that's a big deal," he said -- and he's won back-to-back silvers at the European championship, losing to Murdoch both times.

That mean's Ulsrud and his team of Torger Nergaard, Christoffer Svae and Havard Vad Petersson are setting loftier goals each and every winter.

"And we have, of course, this small tournament in Vancouver in 2010 that everybody's talking about, so we're trying to build up to that," Ulsrud joked about next year's Olympics. "It's good for us to get experience, to play the worlds and play in the semifinals and stuff like that."

Norway doesn't have a tournament to determine its Olympic team like Canada does, but Ulsrud is a lock to represent his country next year in Vancouver nonetheless. That's because the man who will select the team is currently Ulsrud's coach.

"He can actually pick five different players," Ulsrud said. "He can pick whoever he wants. (But) we're looking good. Taking medals in the Europeans and the worlds, that will help us."

Not only that, but the Norwegian Olympic Committee is funding the team's travels on the World Curling Tour since it has shown so much promise. That includes this week's Grand Slam event at MTS Centre, the BDO Classic Canadian Open.

Ulsrud improved to 1-2 last night with a 6-4 win over B.C.'s Bob Ursel, but two losses are too many if you're thinking about making the playoffs in an event like the Classic. So he will have to settle for simply gaining more experience.

One lesson he learned yesterday is you can't give up three to Martin in the first of an eight-end game. Martin got his sweet revenge of Ulsrud with a 7-2 thumping.

Regardless, Ulsrud knows he's going to the Olympics and is only a handful of wins from getting a shot at gold. The Canadians, meanwhile, have to go through an immense pressure cooker just to get to Vancouver.

Ulsrud has shown he can beat Canada's top teams, and he gets to spend the next 12 months tuning up for the best the Great White North will have to offer in Vancouver.

"Carter Rycroft, he used to play for Kevin Martin," Ulsrud said. "I spoke to him, and he said he put down a list after the (2002) Olympics when he lost the final to Pal.

"He said, 'I played Pal 17 times, and I lost once.' That's the way it goes. It's one match."


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