Bernard runs out of magic
Cheryl Bernard's killer instinct left her at the worst possible moment.
One shot away from gold. Two chances to win. Both missed by millimetres.
So deadly with her final shots throughout the Olympic tournament, the Canadian women's curling skip from Calgary couldn't come up with last-second heroics in the gold-medal game Friday and had to settle for silver as Sweden snatched the title away with a 7-6 extra-end victory.
Bernard was up 6-4 over Anette Norberg's rink in the 10th end, staring down a makeable hit for her gold medal.
After the rock left Bernard's hand, you could see a faint smile come across her lips as she watched it go down the ice.
She thought she had it.
But the smile quickly disappeared. The rock wasn't curling far enough around the corner guard. Now she was urging it to bend with all her might. And so was 99 per cent of the crowd at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.
It didn't. Instead, the Swedish stone it targeted slammed into another rock in the house and stayed in the rings. Now you could hear a pin drop in the Olympic Centre.
Norberg, who had the hammer, or last shot, coolly erased a Canadian stone in the house to score two, setting up an extra end.
No matter. Bernard likes the hammer. She had won more than a few games at the Olympics with it. There was no sign of any jitters before the extra end as she and the rest of her rink exchanged a laugh.
And Norberg opened up another window for Bernard, leaving an open double-takeout for one point and Olympic gold.
This time, the rock over-curled. Despite the Canadian sweepers' best efforts, the final shot removed the first Swedish stone but just nicked the second one, keeping it in the house and giving Sweden the steal for one point and an improbable gold medal.
"Pretty routine double," Bernard said. "Rubbed it, missed it by a millimetre. Couldn't ask for an easier shot."
It had looked as if Bernard and her rink of Carolyn Darbyshire, Cori Bartel and Susan O'Connor were destined for something better than that ending.
The 43-year-old came out of nowhere to win the Canadian Olympic trials, defeating the likes of world champion Jennifer Jones and Torino 2006 bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink.
And in the decisive game against Kleibrink, she won on the final shot.
It was a theme that carried over to Vancouver, as Bernard quickly stole the hearts of the crowd at the Olympic Centre, not to mention across the country and beyond. Five of Bernard's eight round-robin victories came on her final shots.
One of the few times Bernard didn't need that last stone in the round-robin was against, strangely enough, Norberg, who struggled to a 6-2 loss against the Canadians in that game.
Just a bit off
When Norberg dispatched China, the only team to beat Bernard in the round-robin, it looked like the stars were aligning for Canada's first women's Olympic curling gold since the late Sandra Schmirler won in Nagano in 1998.
But they, like Bernard's final shots, were just a bit off, giving Norberg her second straight gold medal, stolen right under a lot of Canadian noses.
"I can't believe it yet," said Cathrine Lindahl, Sweden's second. "It felt like an easy shot for her [in the 10th] and we just said, 'Oh a silver medal is good anyway' and then we got the gold. It's unbelievable."
After a stunned silence, the Olympic Centre crowd did what it has done many times throughout the tournament and rose to its feet for Team Canada one last time.
It brought third O'Connor to tears.
"It's kind of like you come off a loss and you do OK until your mom comes and gives you a hug," she said. "Well, it's like that — times a million."
Bernard also thanked the crowd for its support.
"It was fantastic to have them," she said. "And what they did after we lost, especially after the way I finished, it was so impressive of that group of people."
Before the Olympics, if you had asked any Canadians who follow curling if they'd be happy with a silver from the unheralded Bernard, they probably would've leaped at the prospect.
Heck, if you asked Bernard that question she probably would've done the same, considering the difficult competition she was facing.
In a few weeks or so, she will probably be happy with that silver medal, a testament to how much she accomplished after shocking Canadian curling by winning the Olympic trials. She said as much in TV interviews after the match.
But right now, that silver doesn't matter. Not after she was so close to winning it all.
"Eventually, this silver's going to feel really great," a teary-eyed Bernard told The Canadian Press, her voice breaking. "Just right now, the gold was very close."
With files from The Canadian Press