Sweden wins 2nd straight gold in women's curling
Updated February 27, 2010
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Anette Norberg plays in a self-described bubble, her curling zone. Even Canada's cowbell-clanging crowd couldn't penetrate the intense focus that makes her one of the world's best.
Still, Sweden's seasoned skip couldn't watch the final shot that would determine her Olympic fate - a repeat gold medal or a silver. She just listened as the title became hers.
"I heard them sweeping all the way down, so I understood that it was curling a lot," Norberg said. "Suddenly I understood that maybe she wasn't going to do it."
The crowd fell silent as the final attempt by Canada's Cheryl Bernard to bump Norberg's rock in the extra 11th end Friday came up short, sealing a 7-6 win and another title for Sweden.
Victory clinched, Norberg put her hands to her face and let loose with a joyous whoop. Eva Lund and Anna Le Moine clasped hands and leaned down to kiss the cooperative stone that stayed put closest to the button.
"It felt like an easy shot for her, so we just said, 'Oh, silver is good, anyway,'" said Sweden's Cathrine Lindahl, Norberg's little sister, who was celebrating her 40th birthday. "Then we got the gold. Unbelievable."
The Swedish foursome played through the din of a pro-Canada crowd to defend its title from Turin four years ago and spoil the party for the host country.
Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were in the stands to help celebrate.
In the 11th, Bernard leaned on her broom as she watched Norberg's final offering settle right on target, then scurried down the ice to try to save the day one more time.
But her attempt to bump Norberg's rock farther away - a shot she considered a routine double takeout - didn't make it go enough.
"It'll be one of those shots I won't forget," Bernard said.
If Canada is to capture gold in the country's No. 2 sport behind hockey, it will be up to Kevin Martin and his unbeaten Canadian men's team Saturday against Norway.
Martin watched a couple of the women's early ends before leaving, then later came back to the arena for a final practice.
Throughout the women's tournament, Bernard had been a sure thing with her last rock. And she had nearly all of the sellout crowd of 5,600 at Vancouver Olympic Center willing her to do it again.
Even across town at Canada Hockey Place, many a Maple Leaf waved for the curlers as their match played on the big screen while fans awaited Canada's hockey semifinal against Slovakia.
Bernard blamed nobody but herself for her misses in both the 10th and the 11th. Norberg took out one Canadian stone to score two in the 10th and tie it.
"These guys played unbelievable in front of me, and those are the shots you need to make to win," Bernard said. "I had two shots to win. You couldn't ask for any more of your team. They left them for me and I didn't make them."
Canadian third Susan O'Connor was quick to defend the heartbroken captain, who succumbed to tears as her teammate spoke.
"Cheryl is the reason that we're sitting up here now," O'Connor said. "It's the reason we're at the Olympics. There is nobody in the world that I would rather have throwing that for me."
Sweden - with a pair of sisters and another player who's married to the coach - sent the same starting lineup to Vancouver for another memorable Winter Olympics. It avenged a 6-2 loss to Canada in round-robin play.
Sweden scored two points on an official measurement in the fifth, getting closer to the innermost scoring circle by less than a quarter-inch in a game that turned into a duel.
Norberg - who, like Bernard, is 43 - played through the racket with the cool of someone who had been there so many times before. Bernard's international experience pales to Norberg's long resume of playing in world championships and competitions around the globe.
The Canadians ran through the round-robin schedule at 8-1, their lone loss coming to reigning world champion and bronze medalist China.
But even with the support of a madly cheering crowd, Canada was considered the underdog in the final against a squad featuring three women who have played together for more than 14 years - Norberg, her sister and Lund.
They proved too much for Bernard's close-knit bunch from Calgary, a relatively unknown team outside Canada before this run. And then it came down to a moment.
"Finish this, Cheryl!" one man yelled.
Not this time.
The Canadians weren't ready to come to terms just yet with being runners-up.
"We're going to realize that this was a good feat eventually, the silver," Bernard said, "but it's just going to take a little bit to get over the loss of the gold that was so close."