Reuters - Thu, 25 Feb 12:48:00 2010
It would be easy to write a script for Canadian curler Kevin Martin telling how a veteran returned to the Olympics eight years after missing a gold medal by a hairsbreadth and gave the performance of a lifetime.
Too easy. Sure, Martin, the closest thing to a superstar that the sport has, proved unbeatable in the lead-up to Thursday's Olympic semi-final.
He and his team were poised during the round robin tournament, nailing shot after shot.
Martin, 43, has been especially dangerous with the last rock in close games, but he does not consider it vindication for Salt Lake City, where in 2002 he took a silver medal after an upset loss to Norway.
"I don't think I look at it that way, but I guess you could write it that way," said Martin. "To me, we've worked really hard since '92, not '02, to get to every Olympics we possibly could."
Martin, known as "the Old Bear", has been asked often if he feels he plays his best curling in Olympic appearances dating back 18 years when it was still a demonstration event.
He did not qualify for the 1998 and 2006 Games. But he has been intractably humble, saying only that he has felt comfortable in the tournament and energized by sold-out crowds at the Vancouver Olympic Centre that have provided ear-splitting ruckus on his team's behalf.
Thirty-four years after he took up the sport, he said he is having the time of his life. So forget Salt Lake City.
"This is a different team. I'm a different age. You look at big events like this differently as you get older," said Martin, who runs Kevin's Rocks-n-Racquets, a sporting goods store in Edmonton, Alberta.
"You cherish the moment more, so I've really enjoyed myself these last two weeks."
After losing a game to Canada, US captain John Shuster was asked if he had seen Martin play as well before, and he scoffed, "All the time."
"He's legitimately the Michael Jordan of curling, and has been for 20 years. And he's got an unbelievable team, so it's not just him," Shuster said.
To get to the gold medal game, Martin's team, which includes John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert, must beat Sweden.
Norway takes on Switzerland in the other Olympic semi-final, a relief for both skips, who said they wanted to avoid Martin before heading into the medal games.
Typically understated, Martin said he does not concern himself over which team he faces in the semi-final, only that he and his squad can maintain their consistent performance.
"If somebody beats us, I'll congratulate them. There's no problem. But hopefully we put high numbers up and make it tough on them."