Bernard needs her best vs. Norberg
Cheryl Bernard didn't need her best to get into the gold-medal game. But she will to win it.
The Canadian skip looks to unseat reigning champion Anette Norberg of Sweden and return the women's curling gold medal to Canada in the Olympic title game in Vancouver on Friday (3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. ET).
Bernard didn't have her A game for much of Thursday's semifinal against Switzerland. But the Calgarian, who was battling a cold, dug deep and delivered when it mattered most, nailing hard-pounding takeouts in the final two ends to earn a 6-5 victory.
Now she'll try to become the first Canadian woman to skip her team to Olympic gold since the late Sandra Schmirler in 1998. Kelley Law (2002) and Shannon Kleibrink (2006) both won bronze medals.
Swiss skip Mirjam Ott had a chance to force an extra end in the semifinal, but couldn't keep the game's final stone inside the house after it took out a Canadian rock.
"It wasn't a stellar game, but I think the nerves and maybe a little bit of the inexperience kind of crept through," Bernard said. "But what we did do is make the shots when we needed them."
Don't count on Norberg making a mistake with the game on the line. The 43-year-old Swede has won all of curling's biggest championships: Olympic gold in 2006, world titles in 2005 and 2006, and seven European crowns.
Close game expected
Though the same age as Norberg, Bernard has never before curled at an Olympics or world championship, and her victory in December's Canadian curling trials was her first major title.
In Vancouver, though, she has played with the poise and precision of a seasoned veteran (Which she is: Bernard first made it to the Tournament of Hearts — Canada's national women's championship — way back in 1992, and made three more appearances over the next 17 years).
Along with teammates Susan O'Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire, Cori Bartel and alternate Kristi Moore, Bernard breezed to the top spot in the Olympic round robin with a record of 9-1. The only loss came to China, which went on to lose to Sweden in the semis and will play Switzerland for bronze on Friday.
Bernard rebounded from her lone defeat by trouncing Sweden the following day. Canada never trailed, scoring a pair in the second end, stealing one in each of the next two frames and cruising to a 6-2 win in nine ends.
"I think they [Canada] have been a little more consistent than I could expect," said Norberg, who went 7-2 in the round robin. "I didn't know much about them. We haven't played them before this tournament, but of course I knew they are experienced playing nationally here."
If, as expected, the gold-medal game comes down to the wire, the Canadians will be ready. Seven of their 10 games have been decided by a single point.
Bernard expects more of the same in the gold-medal game, labelling her lopsided win over Sweden in the round-robin an aberration.
"It's going to be fun," she said. "We have one more job to do.… We won't have the same kind of game with them that we had before because that was just an unusual game for [Norberg].
"But we've been practising for 10 or 11 ends all week so that's probably what we'll get."