Martin heads west to acclimatize

By CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

Heading into the home stretch of his career, Kevin Martin has to be fully aware there's a law of diminishing chances.

Martin and his crew spent four days last weekend in Vancouver, getting acclimatized for Martin's latest run at Olympic gold.

Heading back to the left coast on Monday will give them a chance to soak in the atmosphere before curling's big event kicks off Feb. 16.

Plenty of water has flowed under the bridge since Albertville in 1992, when a team barely out of juniors fell short of expectations.

It could have happened at Salt Lake City in 2002 had Martin's last shot stopped less than an inch sooner, handing Norway's Pal Trulsen the gold.

"It doesn't seem like it's that long ago," Martin said about his last trip to the five-ring circus.

"When you think back, it's all positive. I'd like to be able to throw that one again, obviously."

Martin's current lineup, rebuilt for this Olympic cycle, has won and lost world championship finals in 2008 and 2009 and are no strangers to the international stage.

About the only thing left for Martin to call it a successful career is to strike Olympic gold.

There are four returning European teams from Salt Lake City. It's a different beast across the pond and very few teams have worn the Maple Leaf at the Olympics. The exception is Martin, now taking his third try.

"It's funny how you never think you'll get another chance," said Martin.

"Here we are, we're going back to another Olympics. We'll try our best to get one step further up."

He's taking the most athletic lineup he's ever had to Vancouver. Lead Ben Hebert and second Marc Kennedy are former football players. Third John Morris was a fairly decent baseball player in his younger days.

Martin has always insisted the rest of the world has been closing the gap on Canada and figures as many as seven of the 10 teams heading to Vancouver have a chance of winning it all.

"This last week has been real tough for us," said Martin.

"We don't want to wait any more. Let's get to Vancouver, let's get to the village and get into Olympic mode."

It took the team a while to get its game back together after winning the trials. A win at the BDO Classic in Winnipeg late last month got them back in form.

"It's exciting, but it's a bit overwhelming," said Martin, whose team was given a sendoff reception Thursday night at the Saville Centre.

"I'm glad we got a chance to go to Vancouver to get ourselves a bit ready for it."

Having been there, Martin understands there is a huge difference between going to any curling event and being part of Team Canada at an Olympics.

"Part of the trick is being able to take it all in and get the feeling for the whole experience," said Kennedy.

"That's tough. It can be a little overwhelming, to be honest with you.

"We have to go in almost expecting the unexpected. It's going to be crazy, but super, super exciting."

It's the whole atmosphere of the five-ring circus. Martin's team is going in earlier than they have to -- to lend support to Canada's other athletes. They knows it works both ways.

"It's a different atmosphere, for sure" said Kennedy.

"The key is that the preparation has to be the same. We've had so much success at the Briers and the worlds and that was because of preparation. The atmosphere, the scope and size of it is something we can't control.

"We'll experience it, but we can't control it."

CON.GRIWKOWSKY@SUNMEDIA.CA

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