Reuters - Sun, 28 Feb 02:06:00 2010
Canada will finish top of the medal standings after bagging another three gold medals on the penultimate day of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
It will be the first time Canada has ever topped the medal standings at either the Winter or Summer Olympics following a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes.
Just a week ago, Canada were languishing on four golds amid public demands for a full-scale investigation into their failure to win more, but have piled up another eight golds in the past six days to soar past their rivals.
Snowboarder Jasey Jay Anderson won the men's parallel giant slalom and Canada's men won the speedskating team pursuit before Canada swept away Norway to take men's curling gold, topping off an unprecedented Olympic unbeaten streak.
The Canadians led by Kevin Martin, who came to Vancouver as the favoured team and played like men on a mission throughout the tournament, beat the Norwegians 6-3 and always looked comfortable.
It was a sweet win for Martin, curling's 43-year-old "Old Bear", who narrowly lost the gold in Salt Lake City to a different Norwegian team.
"It's an amazing feeling and it will only get better and better as the day goes on and as it sinks in," Martin said after the victory.
When the sold-out crowd sensed Martin had sealed the deal by the last end, they broke into Canada's national anthem, a practice initiated earlier in the competition during a game when Britain was threatening to beat the home team.
No other curling team has swept an Olympic tournament since the sport regained medal status in 1998. Virtually all other competitors had said the Canadians, who also include Ben Hebert, Marc Kennedy and John Morris, were the ones to beat.
"We probably played one of the best teams in the history of curling here today," said Norwegian coach Pal Trulsen, who was the skip to whom Martin lost in 2002.
Martin said he did not see his squad's success as vindication for his disappointment eight years ago but stressed all along he aimed to take one more step up the podium.
Canada won gold in 2006 but Martin's team did not compete.
The Norwegians, whose gaudy, diamond-print trousers were the subject of almost more talk than their play, provided few scares for Canada during the game. Skip Thomas Ulsrud missed a few shots early on, allowing Canada to steal points.
"It's gone," Ulsrud said. "I thought we could never lose in these pants but those guys played brilliantly today."
Despite the loss, the silver medal-winners were pleased with the spectacle at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, where the fans raised a mighty ruckus throughout the competition.
"It was great," Norway's Torger Nergaard said. "The crowd was great, and it's something that the Canadian boys are going to remember forever -- having the national anthem being sung by 6,000 fans. It's the best crowd we've ever played."
With the win, Canada upped its gold medal tally to 13, equalling the record for a Winter Olympic Games.
Germany won the women's speedskating team pursuit final to remain in second place on the medals table with 10 golds but with no chance of catching the host nation.
The United States won their ninth gold in bobsleigh and are assured of finishing the Games with more overall medals than any other country.
Follow the Winter Olympics 24/7 on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport HD (Sky 412). British Eurosport channels are streamed online via the Eurosport Player.