Curlers living Oly dream
Experience all new for Martin's teammates
By JIM BENDER, QMI Agency
John Morris will be the first Winnipeg-born curler to compete in the Olympics. (QMI Agency/Brian Donogh)
The realization of the lofty goal he has reached started to sink in when John Morris and his teammates were getting fitted for their spanking new Olympic gear here yesterday.
"It was pretty cool to try on all of it," the third for Alberta's Olympic-bound Kevin Martin said before practice for the Grand Slam's Canadian Open that started at the MTS Centre last night.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling. It's something that I've dreamed of since I was 12 and watched the Olympics on TV," said Morris, 31. "To be able to wear the Maple Leaf on your home turf in Vancouver will be a really cool feeling.
"The opening ceremony is going to be quite the deal. GM Place holds about 60,000 people and I'm sure a lot of them will be cheering on Canada, so we're definitely excited. There will definitely be some chills going up and down my spine when we go into GM Place and we're just going to soak it all in."
Morris will be the first Winnipeg-born curler to compete at the Winter Olympics.
"I didn't realize that," said Morris, whose dad, Earl, skipped a Manitoba team at the 1980 Brier. "I did live here for a couple of years. That's pretty cool and it is surprising because Manitoba has produced some awesome curlers."
Morris moved to Ontario at an early age, then on to Alberta and was recruited by Martin after Morris had skipped an Alberta squad at the 2005 Canadian Curling Trials. Morris had just gotten accepted into teachers' college and was planning to take a year off curling.
"Kevin and I had about a two-month conversation and talked about what kind of team we would be able to put together and we ended up with four guys with a common goal and a really good work ethic," said Morris. "This team is the hardest-working one I've ever been on and it's starting to pay dividends."
With second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert, Martin won both the 2008 and '09 Brier titles and the '08 world championship. But none of those were bigger than earning the right to represent Canada at the Olympics in their own country.
"You know the Olympics hold more prestige than the Brier because it happens every four years and it's such a huge international event," said Morris, a part-time firefighter.
Although Martin has competed at the Olympics twice before (2002 and 1992), this is the first for the rest of the crew.
"That's why it's good that Kevin can pass on some of his veteran knowledge of past Olympics," Morris said. "As far as the on-ice stuff is concerned, it's pretty similar to world championships and Briers we've been to in an arena atmosphere and against international competition. But it's the other stuff that takes place off the ice that we're not as used to."
Morris also denied a suggestion that Martin will be the heavy favourite to bring home the gold.
"To be honest with you, I think the favourite would have to be Mr. (David) Murdoch out of Scotland," he countered. "He's beaten us the last four times and he won the last world championship. But we know, if we can play our game -- the games we played at the trials and the Briers the last couple of years -- we'll be a tough team to beat. It's whole new monster, the Olympics, so we'll see what happens when we step on the ice."
But it could become a life-changing experience.
"This would definitely be one of the biggest accomplishments you could ever have, winning a gold medal in your home country," Morris said. "So, it would mean more than anything."