Kevin Martin's curling soul lives on in Niklas Edin
Sweden skip learned the game by watching Canadian great
EDMONTON — If you can't beat 'em… learn from 'em.
And then beat 'em at their own game.
That's the approach taken by Sweden skip Niklas Edin, the two-time world champion whose 8-1 record here has already earned him a spot in the playoffs with two games left in the round robin.
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"When I started curling I didn't really look up to a lot of guys in Sweden," Edin says.
"What we did was watch old Brier tapes. We probably knew way more about Canadian curlers than we did about Swedish curlers."
Edin is still a curling junkie. Last month he traveled to St. John's to watch the Brier and keep a close eye on Brad Gushue's rink, which is now standing in the way of a third world title for Edin.
He also brought along his team's new second, Rasmus Wrana, to introduce him to a country that is crazy for curling.
"All the best teams are playing in the Brier. Obviously there's a lot of tradition, quality in this event."
But, for Edin, one player stands above the rest when it comes to Canadian curling greats.
"The most influential player for me would have been Kevin Martin," he says.
Martin is considered by many to be the greatest curler ever. The Edmonton skip's list of achievements is never-ending, and includes four Brier titles, a world championship and an Olympic gold medal. (At the 2010 Vancouver Games, Martin beat Edin twice en route to the title.)
Though Martin is now retired, elements of his game live on in Edin, who studied his idol closely.
"What we would try to do was watch the games and see whatever details we could take," says Edin.
It seems to be working. The last two times the world championship was held in Canada — in 2013 in Victoria and 2015 in Halifax — Edin won. Now he's set his sights on stealing curling gold away from Canada again in Edmonton this week.
Gushue has Edin's number
If Gushue has his way, Edin's streak will stop this week. And the Canadian skip, who is also playoff-bound after winning his first nine games, has a good chance of being the guy to end it.
Gushue owns a 12-2 lifetime record against Edin, including an 8-6 win here on Sunday night.
This is where the emulation of Martin's game, which has served Edin so well, can come back to bite him a bit.
"I learned how to manage the game playing against Kevin and learned how to look far enough ahead to see what he'll have left," says Gushue. "Niklas plays that same style of game."
Gushue had about as much success against Martin as anyone could hope for.
"We probably beat him in the last five or six years about 40 per cent of the time, which is 90 per cent more than everyone else," Gushue says.
Right now Gushue's rink is ranked No. 1 in the world. Edin, at No. 5, is the next closest in the standings among those competing at the world championship.
The two skips seem to be on a collision course for a gold-medal showdown in Edmonton, with Gushue hoping to teach his Swedish rival one more Canadian curling lesson.