Canada won the gold medal in its No. 2 sport of curling Saturday, with Kevin Martin’s team defeating a Norwegian foursome that charmed the Olympics with their celebrated flamboyant trousers.
The 6-3 victory gave Canada its 13th gold medal, matching the mark for the most by any nation at a Winter Olympics -- and it gave Martin the Olympic title he has coveted most for so long.
“Today and all week he was amazing,” Canadian second Marc Kennedy. “We had an all-around good team game today, and you couldn’t have it at a better time.”
Switzerland beat Sweden 5-4 for the bronze medal.
Martin’s last rock didn’t have to score -- all it had to do was bump one Norwegian stone out of the way. Once it did, he threw both arms into the air to celebrate the one thing he lacked in a storied career. Teammate John Morris grabbed a flag from a nearby fan and brought it onto the ice.
Martin’s team defended the country’s gold from Turin four years ago, capping an unbeaten 11-game Vancouver run with another commanding victory. A raucous sell-out crowd clanged cowbells, honked like Canadian geese and madly waved the country’s flag. Fans began singing the national anthem in the 10th end.
The 43-year-old “Old Bear” Martin delivered eight years after a heartbreaking miss on his final offering of the Salt Lake City Olympics that missed by a small margin -- in a loss to the Norwegians, no less. He wasn’t on the team that won the gold in 2006.
Martin’s team became the first since curling returned as a medal sport in 1998 to go unbeaten on the way to gold. The only other time it happened was in 1924, when Britain stayed perfect in a four-team event that was retroactively ruled part of the official Olympic program.
Happy-go-lucky Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud told his team all tournament long to just to enjoy these games, and it brought out the best in this bunch. Christoffer Svae picked out the loud, diamond-print golf trousers that instantly turned these curlers into cult heroes across the globe.
On this day, the pants didn’t dance.
With Norway in position to score three points in the seventh, Martin settled a red rock right on the button with his second-to-last throw. Ulsrud then failed to knock Martin’s stone far enough away, and Martin’s last shot was perfect to score two for a 5-2 lead that was too much for the Norwegians to overcome.
Martin’s teammates came to play, too. Morris -- shooting third -- pulled off a triple takeout in the second end, then a key double takeout in the fifth.
“Get outta town!” he said, pumping his fist. He took out two more Norwegian stones in the eighth, drawing cheers of “Johnny-Mo!”
In the bronze medal match, Ralph Stoeckli put aside all his near misses and earned third place for the Swiss in thrilling fashion, scoring two points with his final rock.
Stoeckli realized he scored the points he needed when he saw the arms of teammate Simon Struebin thrust into the air at the other end of the ice sheet. The skip fell to his knees, put his hands on his head and did a spread eagle on the ice -- no matter that he was wearing short sleeves.
“Finally, finally,” Stoeckli said. “The moment Simon was lifting his arms up, I knew that’s the medal. That was just amazing.”
Stoeckli and the Swiss have been close to podiums before, finishing fourth at the 2009 world championships and fifth in the 2006 Winter Olympics. At 33, he said he’s probably led this foursome for the last time.
“I told the guys, ‘I just don’t want to leave this place again in fourth place,”’ Stoeckli said. “We’re all so happy that we finally got that medal.”