Friday, February 22, 2002
Canadian skip can't get it done on final throw
OGDEN, Utah -- Paal Trulsen was sure Norway was looking at the silver medal in curling when his last stone rumbled to a stop on the outer lip of the blue scoring button.
Canadian captain Kevin Martin crouched to line up an easy one, a gimme for one of the world's best players. Think of Tiger Woods standing over a three-inch putt or Jeff Hornacek wiping his cheek at the foul line.
"I thought he was going to make the shot," Trulsen said.
Nope. The Norwegians capped the Olympic curling tournament with a stunner, beating the favored Canadians 6-5 to win the gold medal Friday with King Harald of Norway watching from the stands.
Martin's final throw, the last of the tournament, barely slid past the button.
"It was a little deep, about an inch," he said.
Most of the 1,500 fans, on their feet and roaring for the Canadians, went silent.
How do you say "Wide Left" in Norwegian?
"It's unbelievable," said Norway second Flemming Davanger. "They're very good. Everybody thought Canada was going to win."
Across the Great White North, there must have been renewed cries that Martin can't win the big one. Canada is where curlers have agents and endorsements, and the sport ranks second only to hockey.
"It was an easy shot to win the game," Martin admitted.
Just call Martin The Best Curler Without a Major Championship, sort of like golfer Phil Mickelson on ice. He was second at the world championships in 1991 and fourth in 1997. He was fourth at the 1992 Albertville Olympics, when it was a demonstration event.
"What do I say?" asked Martin, who runs an Edmonton curling academy and serves as president of the World Curling Players Association. "I don't know if it's a monkey or not."
With that kind of history behind him, that final stone was more than it appeared to Martin.
"It made the pressure even bigger for him on that last shot," said Trulsen, a wide-bellied engineer from the Norwegian town of Droebak.
There were no other stones in the way as Martin's rock glided across the ice. As it approached the house, both teams began to sense something might be wrong.
"I heard their sweepers say it was heavy all the way," Trulsen said, meaning Martin's stone was moving too fast. "Unreal. I don't think he misses many of those draws."
Trulsen threw up his arms in celebration as the stands went silent. The teams shook hands and smiled, but the Canadians wore long faces and took a gulp before stepping onto the second-place podium.
"It was less than an inch. I'll be fine," Martin said. "You just hate to miss the last shot."
Earlier, Switzerland beat Sweden 7-3 in the bronze-medal game. Swedish captain Peja Lindholm foreshadowed what was to happen later when he missed a rock in the eighth end.
Swiss captain Andreas Schwaller clinched a medal with a billiards-style combination, knocking the Swedes out of scoring position and eliminating any chance of the two points they were in position to nab.
All Lindholm needed was to put his final rock on target, just like Martin later. But his stone slid past the blue center button and kept going. Instead of pulling Sweden to 6-4, the Swiss led decisively 7-3.
"The difference between disaster and success is very, very small," Lindholm said. "You have to be humble and realize that."
Early in the ninth, Lindholm conceded by holding his rock and sliding down the 146-foot ice sheet. Players are supposed to release the stone after a short slide from the starting hack.
Translation: game over.
"I saw my sweepers and they were very sad. They were almost crying," Lindholm said. "We will remember the Olympics and it's not a great memory to cry at the end. It is better to have a good laugh, so I did it for the team."
They cried anyway. As Lindholm stood to hug and congratulate the Swiss players, his teammates returned to their end of the sheet with tears rolling off their cheeks.
"Two years from now, no one will remember who ended up fourth," said Swedish player Thomas Nordin. "Our goal was a gold, but we would have been happy to win any medal."