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Olympic silver medallist Bernard announces retirement from competitive curling

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Canadian skip Cheryl Bernard feels she could still compete at an elite level for the next year or two.

She's just unsure whether she could still do it for a four-year Olympic cycle.

That was one of the reasons why she announced her retirement from competitive curling on Tuesday, ending a career highlighted by four appearances at the national championships and an Olympic silver medal at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

"When you've been there, that's really all you want is to get back," she said from her hometown of Calgary. "It's a funny thing, so I realize that."

Bernard, 47, said she started to seriously consider retirement after losing the Alberta provincial final to Val Sweeting last January.

"I really had to sit down and think," she said. "We came so close and that was a heartbreaker. Funny, I've lost a few of them. And that one was without a doubt the worst because it would have just been a really neat way to maybe end the year and at least have a couple more years to look forward to."

Bernard skipped Team Alberta at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 1992, 1996, 2007 and 2009. The best result for the Grande Prairie native was a runner-up finish in 1996 at Thunder Bay, Ont.

One of her most memorable victories came over a decade later as she defeated Shannon Kleibrink in the final of the Olympic Trials in 2009 at Edmonton.

At the Games, Bernard and her team of third Susan O'Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire (now McRorie), lead Cori Bartel (now Morris) and alternate Kristie Moore took top spot in the round robin at 8-1. They defeated Switzerland in the semifinal before dropping a 7-6 decision to defending champion Anette Norberg of Sweden in the final.

Bernard had the final throw in the extra end but couldn't knock the two Swedish rocks out of the house and settled for second place.

"I tried to really look at the positive that came out of that," Bernard said. "I really wanted to go through my life looking at it like our team won a silver and we didn't lose a gold."

Both competitions provided lasting memories.

"(The Trials) are kind of the pinnacle for Canada because it's all the Canadian teams and it's all your peers," she said. "They're both so up there in my memory and in my mind. Being able to stand on the (Olympic) podium in your own country. I'll never forget that, that was pretty neat."

Now that she's retired, Bernard plans to spend more time with her family and continue her charity work and public speaking endeavours.

She usually brings her silver medal along during her talks and the gold-medal game is a frequent discussion subject.

"I relive it a lot," she said. "I talk about that and I have realized that sometimes you're lucky enough to win and sometimes you're lucky enough not to win. Because I think the things you get from a loss can sometimes be more educational, they can be more life-changing than the things when you win.

"I think you look at a lot of different things after a loss and I think you can actually do a lot of good with that knowledge and see some really great life lessons. I really try to look at that as some great lessons I learned. I learned some amazing things about my teammates and about my family. You learn a lot when something doesn't maybe go exactly like you hoped."

Bernard is excited to tackle some new challenges. She recently completed her first marathon and plans to work with World Vision and climb Mount Kilimanjaro to help children in Third World countries.

"The marathon was something I really wanted to do and I trained the last five months for it," she said. "I absolutely loved focusing on a different sport. It felt so amazing to win a (participation) medal at a marathon. It was a nothing medal — it was a completion medal, and it just felt so good.

"I just thought, 'You know, I'm missing trying to push myself at other things.' So that's the next step."

After a run of over two decades in the sport, Bernard is also quite proud of the friends she made along the way.

"I always look back so much at the players," she said. "I look at the accomplishments of course and the highlights of winning the Trials and winning a silver medal and playing in an Olympics in Canada. I don't know if you can ever beat playing in an Olympics in your home country.

"But I really look back at the people and the relationships that you've developed and the people you've influenced. I think those things maybe more make my career than the hardware."

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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