Team Bernard exudes talent and class

TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

Susan O'Connor will always remember silently pleading to the rock.

"Please stop! Please! Please! Please stop!"

As the last rock on the 10th end out of the hand of her skip, Cheryl Bernard, finally started slowing down, O'Connor started bouncing up and down.

When the rock finally stopped, she and the sweepers ran back to mid-ice where they engaged in an emotional group hug -- O'Connor leaking tears all the way there.

For Bernard's Calgary team, which also includes Carolyn Darbyshire-McRorie and Cori Bartel, it was the shot they'll remember the rest of their lives.

It was the draw that put them in the Vancouver Olympics.

Darbyshire, whose husband has been doing the fit-out and the decorating of several Olympic venues in Vancouver -- "Including the curling venue, just for me!" -- had him in the stands with her daughter for the first time during the event.

Hubby could see that she was worried as the rock came down the ice, knowing that she was never going to put a broom to it.

"It was a little warm," she laughed.

Was Bernard worried that too much adrenalin had kicked in and her draw to half the eight foot to work with, was going to go too far?

"Well, yeah," she said. "But it didn't."

With those words she was called for the trip up the ice to join her teammates for the presentations. But first she went to the boards, where she exchanged hugs with her mom, Pat.

"I don't think I've ever been so proud of her," said her mom. "I don't think I can tell you how proud I am of her."

Bernard said she only had one thing to say to her mom: "I love you."

As she headed to the other end of the ice with her teammates, she thought of her dad, who died six years ago.

"He just loved the game," she said.

At the other end of the ice, moments later, the team was presented with Canadian Olympic jackets and then stood to hear the national anthem they hope they can have Canadians hear with a women's team on top of an Olympic podium for the first time since Sandra Schmirler in Nagano 1998.

It was the anthem that broke the dam for Bernard, who started crying on the podium while O'Connor hugging her.

"The anthems always get me," said Bernard.

"I liked it!" said Bartel of the anthem experience, surprised that she was the one who seemed to be enjoying it without sobbing.

"Usually I'm the one with the water works," she said. "It felt fantastic! It's hard to believe."

Finally, Bernard was asked to speak to the crowd and the classy lady first recognized the Calgary opponent she's now defeated in six straight games and nine of the last 11.

"It's always going to be that kind of a game against Shannon Kleibrink's team," she said.

And then she made a promise to Canada, which will have doubts after two straight bronze medals at the Olympics and the Worlds.

The promise might also have been aimed at the Chinese team that trains here and is taking giant strides to the top of world curling.

"I know we'll represent Canada very well," she said.

"I feel a little bit heavier right now," said O'Connor when the ceremonies were over.

Bernard said she felt a little bit lighter.

"We've had so much heartbreak," the 43-year-old said of so many disappointments at provincials and never winning a Scotties.

"But all that was for this. You learn a lot from losing. You don't like it. But you learn. This is the most relaxed I've ever been on the curling ice.

"We're going to an Olympics in Canada. That's incredible! It'll be amazing there," she said.

She was amazing here.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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