Martin strikes gold in Olympic tuneup

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

He capped off his last competitive game before the Olympics with a victory, then turned his focus towards capturing gold in Vancouver.

Alberta's Kevin Martin jumped to a 4-1 lead, then hung on for a 6-4 triumph over Ontario's Glenn Howard in the final of the Grand Slam's Canadian Open before 4,115 fans at the MTS Centre Sunday.

Martin, who had beaten Howard in the Canadian Curling Trials final in Edmonton last month, was asked if he is ready to win Olympic gold now.

"That's the goal, we'll sure try," responded Martin, who won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics. "We played pretty good (Sunday). I don't think we played an A game but we played pretty darn good. But if we work hard for the next couple of weeks, then we'll feel good going on. The only bad part is, we play on ice and you never know what's going to happen. You prepare and do the process the way you think you should and I think we've done that.

"We peaked at the trials, went right back down and didn't play very well the last couple of weeks. But we're coming around. I don't think we're right on our game yet, but close. The next two of weeks, we'll train real hard and hopefully, peak at the right time."

Howard, who had been hoping to exact some sort of revenge after losing that trials final, was kicking himself for not giving Martin a tougher test.

"It's not so much losing, it's just that we didn't play very well," he said. "We couldn't put eight shots together and that's not normal of us. That's one of those things. And I had a little trouble reading the ice. The ice was fantastic. It was just curling a little more on one side than the other and we just didn't pick up on it.

"That wasn't a great game by any stretch of the imagination. I don't think either team played very well. They're getting better. I think there's room for improvement and in a couple of weeks, they'll be on top of their game, for sure."

Howard, who won earned $17,000, now turns his attention to the Ontario playdowns, hoping to get back to the Brier.

This week's progression fit in perfectly with Martin's Olympic buildup.

"We can't ask for better preparation than this, with the ice being almost perfect and probably a lot like it will be in Vancouver," said Martin, supported by third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert. "You can't find a better competition than you'll find in a Grand Slam, either. So, the timing is perfect."

Martin also pocketed $25,000 for winning his 14th Slam, and fifth Canadian Open.

"Every one gets up in this event and to win is just huge," said Martin, who was more concerned with what awaits in Vancouver.

"You saw how well (Norway's Thomas) Ulsrud did here; you saw how well (Scotland's David) Murdoch did in the first two weeks of January," said Martin, whose team will check out the Vancouver venue next weekend. "China does very well when they come over here, Switzerland, Sweden and so on. So, we'll just have to play like we did here and shoot high numbers.

"We're a pretty confident team, but you have to throw in the low 90s and if you do that, you have a really good chance of winning."

BITERS: Total attendance for the Winnipeg Slam was 43,392 … However, the Canadian Open will likely be held elsewhere for the next few years … Ontario's Alma Laidlaw failed to hit the house in the One Million Dollar Button Contest but did get a $1,000 consolation cheque.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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