It may have taken eight years, but Kevin Martin took that next step up the podium he was seeking with a 6-3 win over Norway's Thomas Ulsrud in the Olympic men's curling final Saturday at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.
After missing out on gold to Norway at the Salt Lake Games by one shot, Martin returned to the final with his Edmonton-based rink of Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert and John Morris to capture the gold medal that had eluded the skip in 2002.
"Finally, it took a long time, a lot of years," Martin said. "The hard work's worth it."
The win caps off an undefeated tournament showing for the Martin foursome, going 11-0 and outscoring their opponents with a combined score of 87-42.
It may not have been Pal Trulsen that Martin defeated this time around, but Ulsrud's rink of Torger Nergaard, Christoffer Svae and Haavard Vad Petersson provided a perfect Norwegian foil for the final match.
Posting a 7-6 squeaker of a win over Ulsrud in their round-robin meeting, the Canadians' game again proved more overwhelming than the play — and for that matter, the pants — of their Norwegian opponents, whose colourful, diamond-patterned garb has been the fashion faux pas talk of the Games.
"I thought we couldn't lose in these pants," Ulsrud said.
The Norwegian skip said he was "a bit disappointed right now, but I think I'm going to be quite happy with silver. Taking a medal in the Olympics was our big goal."
Back-to-back steals in the fourth and fifth ends put Ulsrud behind early, while great freeze and draw shots by Martin in the seventh sealed the win.
Mistakes dominate 1st half
After taking the blank in the first end, Martin lost the hammer in the second as Ulsrud buried his final stone behind two Canadian guards in the eight-foot. A draw to the four-foot guaranteed a single for Canada and the early lead, but handed over the last rock advantage to Ulsrud.
The Norwegian skip was able to get a blank of his own in the third end, but the Canadians provided some trouble for him in the fourth. A great double by Morris on the Canadian third's first rock had Canada lying two in the top edge of the four-foot behind Norway's stone in the rings.
Those two Canadian stones were spared through Nergaard's third rocks for Norway, and Martin bumped back to make Ulsrud shoot against three.
Able to eliminate one of Martin's rocks, Ulsrud's shot still had the Canadians lying three after Martin's final stone, including one rock biting the button.
It was that stone that Ulsrud couldn't eclipse on his attempted draw to the button, giving Canada a steal of one and a 2-0 lead.
Another clutch double from Morris in the fifth had fans on their feet and the Canadians lying one. On Martin's first stone, his hit and roll had his team lying two, but there wasn't enough curl on the shooter to get behind the two Canadian guards.
Despite some frustration shown by Martin, it did not turn out to be a problem as Ulsrud's final draw with Canada lying two was once again light, allowing another steal of one and a 3-0 Canada lead.
Ulsrud's fourth chance with the hammer was finally a successful one, picking up a pair to cut the Canadian lead to 3-2. From pumping up the crowd with doubles, Morris helped quiet the raucous arena with a pair of missed shots in the seventh as his skip stepped into the hack looking at Norway lying three.
A draw for redemption and the pair
Martin's first shot cruised into the button to freeze on top of Norway's stone occupying the four-foot and usurped shot stone. After Ulsrud's shot failed to squeeze that Canadian stone out of the eight-foot with Norway's last shot, Martin laid down a near-perfect draw to the button for the pair, a 5-2 lead, and perhaps exorcised whatever demons still remained from his heavy shot in 2002.
Morris regained his form in the eighth, notching his third double of the game, and cleared out the house except for one Canadian stone with his final stone. Nergaard kept it that way, missing his final shot with skip stones still to go.
Martin put his first stone on the top of the button, which Ulsrud tried to match, but only managed to push the Canadian stone over the pin and left his own rock open for Martin's takeout.
A hit and stick salvaged a Norwegian single, but gave the Canadians the hammer back with a 5-3 lead into the ninth.
With skip stones remaining in that end, Ulsrud managed a double takeout to leave Norway lying two after his first shot. But after Martin first knocked Norway's stone out of the four-foot, his tap-back with the hammer clinched the single point and a 6-3 lead into the 10th end, where the fans started singing O Canada as the Canadians simply ran Ulsrud out of rocks for the win.