Canuck curlers going for gold
By QMI Agency
Canadian skip Cheryl Bernard shouts to her sweepers during her semifinal win over Switzerland at the Vancouver Olympics Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
VANCOUVER – Going for gold is the easy part.
But getting to go for gold for Canada for the first time since Sandra Schmirler in 1998 in Nagano, that was just about the most excruciating experience they’ve gone through.
“I haven’t played a game like that before,” Cheryl Bernard said of the 6-5 win over Mirjam Ott on a last-shot miss by the Swiss skip that guarantees the Canadian women a medal, either gold or silver, here Friday.
“There were a lot of nerves going in. I think they were mostly from fear of having to play in the bronze-medal game.”
That fear, previously unspoken, also grew from the possibility of becoming the first Canadian curling team to not bring a medal home from the Olympics, with previous Games producing two golds, two silvers and two bronze.
Schmirler the Curler won women’s gold at Nagano ‘98 but Kelley Law and Shannon Kleibrink lost their semifinals in Salt Lake and Nagano and ended up claiming bronze.
“Now, it’s different,” Bernard said. “Now you’ve got a medal. Now you get this close to the gold and you want it even more.”
It was a special scene for the athletes and the crowd with Bernard, Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel advancing to Friday’s gold-medal game against defending Olympic gold medallist Anette Norberg of Sweden.
While it looked like Ott was going to take them to an extra end, her shot rolled a little too far and Bernard was soon running to hug second Carolyn Darbyshire, who made a big double takeout earlier in the end to save the Canadian bacon.
“I didn’t want to come back here to play for that other medal,” Darbyshire said. “I think the pressure comes off now. I think this was the pressure game.”
It was a game that was never really a game — but almost became one they’d remember forever in a bad way.
Ott, giving up two on the third end, chased the game all the way to that last shot on the last end, which hit and rolled just a little too far to leave her with one instead of two.
The back-to-back silver medal winner at the last two Olympics — who lost her first three games in the tournament then stayed alive by winning six straight — said it was a shot she should have made.
“Too fast,” she said of throwing it too heavy.
Now, O’Connor is thrilled to have a golden opportunity.
“We’ve got one more game to go and we’re going to come back here and give her hell,” she said. “We want to play for the gold medal before this crowd.”