Martin cemented status as curling's greatest

Canadian skip Kevin Martin put the finishing touch on his already legendary résumé by finally capturing an elusive Olympic gold medal in Vancouver. Go ahead and give him one more title: greatest curler of all time.
Kevin Martin is the only skip to go undefeated at an Olympic Games. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

Four Briers. A world championship. And now, Olympic gold.

Go ahead and give Kevin Martin one more title: greatest curler of all time.

"When it comes to individual careers, I don't think anyone can match what Kevin has done," says CBC curling analyst Mike Harris, the silver medallist at the 1998 Olympics.

Martin put the finishing touch on his already legendary résumé by finally capturing that elusive gold medal on the penultimate day of competition at the Vancouver Games.

Martin's clinical 6-3 victory over Norway put the affable 43-year-old from Killam, Alta., into the Olympic record books as the only skip — man or woman — to go undefeated since curling reappeared as an official event at the 1998 Games.

The guy rarely loses at big events these days. His record at the last two Brier tournaments is a combined 26-0, moving him into a tie for the all-time lead with four Canadian championships. Martin went 23-5 at the last two worlds, capturing the title in 2008.

His performance at the 2010 Olympics was one for ages. Martin and his terrific teammates — third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert — beat their 11 opponents by a combined score of 87-42.

The gold-medal victory marked the culmination of an Olympic journey that began for Martin in 1992 when curling was a demonstration sport at Albertville, and continued when he lost the 2002 gold-medal game at Salt Lake City on the last shot.

"It took a long time, a lot of years," said Martin, "The hard work's worth it."

Cheryl Bernard could say the same thing, even though her Olympics ended in heartbreak.

The 43-year-old skip from Calgary played superbly in the first major international tournament of her solid but unspectacular career, going 8-1 in the round robin to clinch the top seed in the women's tournament.

Bernard made several clutch shots in her semifinal victory over Switzerland, and carried that momentum into the gold-medal game against defending champion Anette Norberg of Sweden. Up two with just one end left, Bernard looked to have the title within grasp.

But a shaky 10th frame by the Canadian skip allowed Sweden to force an extra end, where Bernard missed a tough double-takeout try with the game's final stone, forcing her to accept silver.

"It's tough, because they really deserved to win," Harris said.

Despite the disappointing result, Bernard and teammates Susan O'Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel ought to be judged kindly. They came into the tournament widely perceived as the third- or perhaps even fourth-best team, but left with the knowledge that they belong among the best in the world.

"They were the best team in Vancouver all week," said Harris. "They were the most consistent from the lead right through the skip."