Eight years later, Martin gets it right

Draw to four-foot beats Norway in men's curling

By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER - Ole Ingvaldsen, the coach of Norway, came on the ice to dispatch some strategy on the extra end against Canada's Kevin Martin.

"We talked about it," skip Thomas Ulsrud said. " 'Make him play the draw to the four foot with his last rock.' One of our guys, said 'That might have worked in 2002. But he's got better since then.' "

It was the same shot against the same country Martin missed in his last game at the Olympics eight years ago in Salt Lake to settle for silver. That time, he was two inches heavy with his last rock in the gold-medal game.

The only difference was, this one was the last shot of the morning draw of the first day of play and this one was an in-turn going against two red rocks biting the four-foot.

In Salt Lake, it was an out-turn facing one biter that Martin missed to make Norway's Pal Trulsen an Olympic gold-medal champion.

This one was perfect to beat Norway's Ulsrud 7-6.

The Olympic opener probably drew bigger television numbers than normal because of the "Hey, Martha, come look at the pants these Norwegian fellas are wearing and the crazy green 12-foot ring."

The team wearing the loud pants with red, white and blue diamonds weren't the jesters they appeared to be when, with the game on the line, they turned the screws on Martin who curled 93% with all four members of his team recording 90% or better.

"We made him draw to the four-foot and I was impressed by Kevin," said Ulsrud, who also said he wouldn't have wanted to be in the same spot of having to make that shot right out of the box to win a game, especially considering the history involved.

Martin's mates, who joined him for this Olympic quadrennial, know about his memorable miss and his international statistics (one gold medal for two Olympics and four world championships) which haunt his otherwise glorious curling career, debated about how many times they've seen The Old Bear miss that shot in the time the team has been together.

RIGHT OFF THE BAT

"I don't know if he missed more than one or two in the last four years," lead Ben Hebert said. "I think it's great he had to throw that one right off the bat to win the game. Those are the best shots to win your first game against one of the best teams in the world."

Second Marc Kennedy agreed.

"I loved it. Pressure situation. Crowd loud. Screaming for Canada. Right on top of you. Your heart racing. And Skippy draws the button to win," he said.

For the record, Kennedy said he remembers the last time Martin missed that shot with the game on the line.

"It was against China at the 2008 world championships in Grand Forks, N.D., in extra ends," Kennedy said. "That might be the only one he's missed. I can't recall another one.

"I know one thing. There isn't another guy in the world you'd want to be taking that shot."

It was a roaring morning for the roaring game at the Olympics before 5,088 fans, sadly an all-time Olympic record because of the ridiculously small venues used for curling in far-flung locations outside the host cities.

Packed into temporary seats at the controversial venue, for the first time other than a gold medal game, the seats were full and the crowd loud as they waved Canadian flags and created a special scene.

"That was so much fun," third John Morris said. "I've curled before almost 20,000 fans before. But I can't say I've played in front of a crowd much louder. It was a good way to start."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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