Road To The Olympic Games

Curling

Bernard, Martin elated about Olympics

Cheryl Bernard and Kevin Martin will wear the maple leaf as Canada's curlers at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

It's just over two months until Cheryl Bernard of Calgary and Kevin Martin of Edmonton wear the maple leaf at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as Canada's curling representatives.

After being told at this past weekend's Olympic trials that her first game is only nine weeks away, Bernard replied: "Good, I can't wait, it will be great. All of Canada behind us? Amazing!"

Competing in Vancouver has been a dream of Martin's since he missed his last draw against Norway in the gold-medal final at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Bernard's rink of Susan O'Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cory Bartel played flawlessly through the round robin at the Olympic trials in Edmonton, and secured the bye to the final early after starting 6-0.

Shannon Kleibrink defeated a tough Krista McCarville in the semifinal to earn her way. Although Kleibrink finished second in the round robin, many expected she would return to the Olympic Games again, having valuable experience on her side after representing Canada at the Torino Games in 2006.

Bernard had other ideas, however, and looked solid throughout the exciting final. Kleibrink appeared to take control with a big three-ender in the seventh end to take a one point lead. But Bernard quickly showed why she was the best team all week.

Two clutch shots in the eighth end earned her two points, and she followed those shots up with two more perfect freezes in the ninth, forcing Kleibrink to settle for one point and a tie entering the 10th end without last rock.

For the past three years this team has thrown thousands of rocks and has, as any athlete is prone to do, practiced that final stone that would mean so much.

As Bernard let it go in Saturday's final, it was clearly heavy. Sweepers backed off, not even thinking about following it in to the house, hoping it would stop. Finally just short of the house it began to curl and slow down and finally came to rest two inches closer to Vancouver than Kleibrink's rock.

Battle of ages

The men's final was billed as a battle of the ages.

No doubt in anyone's mind that Martin and Glenn Howard were the skips of the two best teams in the world. This game was to settle who is No. 1, once and for all, and send our best to Vancouver.

It became a clinical study in perfect curling by Team Martin, a match that was over early as Howard was given little chance to pressure his opponent.

Dominant from the outset, Martin made a perfect freeze in the first end and put the pressure on Howard. Martin scored two points in the second end, stole one in the third, forced Howard to one in the fourth, and then took another deuce in the fifth end to put the game out of reach.

Leading 5-1 at the break, the best team in world at defending a lead never let up. Martin outplayed Howard at every position and ruled the final, giving them the biggest win of their careers in front of their hometown crowd.

For John Morris, Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert and Martin, the dream will become reality in nine short weeks.

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