Martin set for Olympic redemption
The immortal deities of Mount Olympus are smiling on Kevin Martin's rink in Vancouver.
Armed with rocks and sheer Canadian will, our noble curling skip from Edmonton has led his men to a 10-0 record at the Winter Olympics.
They've outscored opponents 81-39 over that undefeated span, with the only real test coming in their first match against Norway. It was a 7-6 squeaker past the men in the funny pants.
For Martin, the close call was a fitting visit from the ghosts of Olympics past and a perfect setup for Saturday night's gold-medal match against his Norwegian nemesis, Thomas Ulsrud.
When Martin represented Canada at the Salt Lake Games in 2002, he carried his country's heavy expectations to the gold-medal match against Norway's Pal Trulsen.
In that match, Martin's last rock was too heavy, slipping past the mark by about an inch and handing Norway the gold medal.
Four years later in Turin, Brad Gushue won the gold for Canada, while Martin watched from home.
Redemption has been a long time coming for the 43-year-old Albertan. Over the past three years, he has been the most dominant force in Canadian curling.
Martin's team of Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert and John Morris has been focused on one goal throughout the tournament. They want that gold medal — so much so, in fact, that they held a practice during Canada's semifinal hockey game against Slovakia on Friday night.
A true sign of dedication.
"We played well. And the process we went through getting ready for that Olympics worked," Martin told CBC's Scott Russell regarding his silver-medal performance in Salt Lake. "We just didn't quite win.
"So, I'm not really upset about that, actually. All you can do is do what you do, and do it well."
But when the country expects excellence from its curlers, your best had better be the best — and Martin knows it.
"When it comes to sitting at home and watching our Team Canada in hockey, I expect them to win, I really do, and it's no different in curling for most of our fans," he said. "And I think that's fair."
Norway will be a formidable challenger in the gold-medal game as Ulsrud has guided his team to a 7-2 record. They came to Vancouver as challengers for the podium, but not necessarily gold-medal favourites.
That distinction belonged to Martin and Britain's David Murdoch, who beat the Canadian skip in the 2009 world championships.
Martin has been waiting to "get one step higher" on the podium for eight long years. Saturday night at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, he expects the nation to demand that he succeed.
"And if we didn't look at it that way," he said. "It wouldn't be very Canadian."