clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Old Bear and his young studs

New, comments

This is the moment when OVF (Olympic viewer fatigue) sets in. To get some relief from the non-stop explosive action -- bobsled, slalom, hockey -- I buried myself in the less-explosive-but-oh-so-engrossing medal games for men's curling. The packed house, and the high energy in it, told more about how this sport is caroming its way out of oblivion and onto the world stage. I had my curling glossary handy so I'd know what the hell they were talking about.

The bronze-medal match was definitely quieter than bobsledding. Despite some flashy shots from Sweden's terrific thrower Edin (double take-outs, even a quadruple), the Swiss hung in there, quietly and doggedly, and stealthed the win by one point in the final moments.

But the gold-medal game was more explosive in its quiet way. I'm glad I saw every minute of this bit of history -- an athlete in action who is said to be the world's greatest living curler. Canada's skip, Kevin "the Old Bear" Martin, is in his mid-40s now, and has played 3000 games. He's bald, and a bit plug-ugly, but is very fit and has a skipper's commanding presence. It was heartening to see an older athlete so idolized and at the top of his game in an Olympics so swarming with cookie-cutter young guys.

Today was the all-time critical game. Martin was determined to redeem the Salt Lake City loss, where he missed a key shot and the gold medal. It had rankled with him for eight years. He had put together this squad, all younger men that he'd trained, for the express purpose of a comeback. His vice skip, John Morris, is a demon thrower too, and he calls his two sweepers the best in the world.

So Martin played what the NBC commentators agreed was an unusually aggressive game. 'He's sending a message," one of them said. In the early ends, he was throwing cannonball after cannonball down the sheet, taking Norway's rocks out of play before they could even set up any guards.

Later, Martin went to softer, more surgical shots. The Norwegians soldiered on manfully, in their colorful harlequin pants that were the talk of Vancouver -- but the Old Bear and his young studs kept them worn down. In the 10th end, with the score 6 to 3, the outcome was so obvious that the crowd was roaring "Oh Canada" even before the last rock was thrown.

Martin and his boys are very happy with their gold medals. He allows that he might retire after a couple more years, so today may have been his Olympic finale. It's one of the Vancouver moments that I'll remember.

Many Americans don't get curling yet. But they will. They will.

And yeah, I'll be on deck for the hockey explosions tomorrow.