Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada loses gold to Sweden

Opportunity of a lifetime results in opportunity lost

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VANCOUVER -- Some day -- maybe tomorrow, next week or perhaps many, many years from now -- the sting will begin to subside for Cheryl Bernard & Co. and a silver medal might look somewhat appealing.

But those were tears in the eyes of the Canadian skip at the Vancouver Olympic Centre Friday night after dropping the gold-medal curling match to Anette Norberg of Sweden 7-6. And, try as she may, her trembling voice provided all the necessary evidence about how much this will hurt.

And that old saying about not losing gold but winning silver?

Bernard, Susan O'Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel will have none of that today.

"You know what? I had two chances to win that game and my team gave them to me in 10 and 11...," began Bernard, fighting back tears. "I'm just very proud of my team and how they played this week. They handled all the pressure and everything.

"Eventually, this silver is going to feel really great. It's just, right now, the gold was very close."

Close? Bernard had her hands around the thing with two opportunities to win in the 10th when leading 6-4 and again in the extra end, but missed a nose hit on a almost fully exposed Swedish rock in the eight-foot that allowed Norberg to hit for two and tie the game at 6-6.

And then in the 11th Bernard had a double-takeout for the win, but missed and gift-wrapped a second consecutive gold-medal win for Norberg, who also won in Turin four years ago.

"It's just so unbelievable," said Norberg. "They had us in the 10th and then... it just happened. I don't know how. I know the way you're feeling when you're facing that kind of shot (in the 11th): it doesn't seem too difficult but it's something you have to do in that situation and it's not easy.

"It's hard to describe the feeling four years ago and it's hard to describe the feeling today. You come prepared for anything. (Teammates, Eva Lund, Cathrine Lindahl and Anna LeMoine) are my best friends. We've struggled in these years but the way they played this week... they are fantastic."

Perhaps nervous on the big stage -- and playing in front of a crowd that included Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Swedish King Carl Gustaf -- the Canadians struggled mightily early and were behind 4-2 at the fifth-end break.

But as has been their trademark dating back to the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials last December, the Canadians rallied and looked to have complete control -- twice -- in the game's critical moments.

Oops. And double oops.

And just like that, a squad looking to become the second Canadian team to win Olympic gold after Sandra Schmirler went from golden to wrapped in silver.

"I don't know how to react yet," said third O'Connor, her eyes welling up with tears. "Our team is very competitive. We don't like to lose. But in the grand scheme of things I'm still very proud of what we did this week.

"That last shot? What can you do? We gave it all that we could. It's still sinking in because we're coming off a really hard loss, but for us to be out there, still being on the podium and having 6,000 fans cheering for you... it's like you come off a tough loss and you go hug your mom. That's what it feels like."

Added Bartel, trying to put a silver lining on silver:

"We have these beautiful silver medals and what an amazing experience. The crowds were fantastic... maybe that's the saddest part about all this: we don't get to play in front of them again."

Yes, it was an opportunity of a lifetime and an opportunity lost all wrapped up in one.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2010 D2

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