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Canadian curling team rips American men, takes some sting out of hockey loss

Canadian Marc Kennedy (center) keeps an eye on his rock, swept by Ben Herbert (left) and John Morris during curling action against the USA.  (Gerry Kahrmann / Canwest News Service / MCT)
Canadian Marc Kennedy (center) keeps an eye on his rock, swept by Ben Herbert (left) and John Morris during curling action against the USA. (Gerry Kahrmann / Canwest News Service / MCT)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The good people of Vancouver awoke to a headline that pretty much said it all.

O No Canada.

Losing to the Americans in hockey on Sunday, wounding the pride of a nation that figures it should own the ice.

"It was huge," said Kent Friesen, of Prince George, B.C., who watched the game in a downtown bar. "The whole city went dead."

There was only one way to respond: Friesen and a few thousand of his compatriots showed up at the Vancouver Olympic Centre bright and early Monday morning to watch Canada whip the U.S., 7-2, in men's curling.

"At this moment in the Olympics, I think Canada is hoping for good things," Canadian team member Marc Kennedy said. "A little redemption for them today? Sure."

Not that this figured to be a close match. Canada is undefeated in round-robin play while the U.S. has now slipped to 2-6, eliminated from medal contention.

Still, a hint of revenge marked the shrill bagpipes that played before the first throw, a tribute to Scots who invented this game on frozen marshes.

And though the U.S. took a brief lead, stealing a point in the first end, Canadian skip Kevin Martin soon guided his team into the lead with two in the fourth.

The affable, balding Martin qualifies as a celebrity north of the border — or as much of a celebrity as one can be in curling — and his adroit throws ignited cheers that shook the small arena.

"Isn't it something?" he asked. "It's so red and white in there with Canadian colors and Canadian pride."

Raw emotion is nothing new to the curling venue. While the players tend to be understated, engrossed in chess-like games that stretch toward three hours, the crowd at the Vancouver Olympic Centre has been downright raucous at times.

A recent game against Britain was interrupted — players respectfully pausing — when fans sang an impromptu rendition of the national anthem.

"I've never heard a crowd break out in 'O Canada' before," Martin said.

Several times on Monday, Americans began chanting "USA, USA" only to be overwhelmed by stomping feet and yells of "Canada, Canada."

A similar reaction met Allan Paskin, of Santa Barbara, Calif., who wore a U.S. hockey sweater and waved an American flag.

"They told me to go home and shove the flag," he said. "But otherwise they've been very polite."

The hometown fans could afford to be magnanimous, with their team building a comfortable lead, then settling into a strategic mode that blocked any chance of a comeback.

The Americans conceded after nine ends — one short of regulation — offering handshakes in the tradition of the sport.

"They're a good team and they played well," said Jason Smith of the U.S. "We just fell a little short."

The same might be said for Canada's victory, which though convincing, did not quite make up for losing in that other game.

"Curling is for sure not as big as hockey," said Iain Farqharson, a 24-year-old Toronto resident who showed up in a red hockey sweater and helmet. "But it's still a great Canadian sport, so you have to cheer it on."

If nothing else, the applause that followed Martin and his crew off the ice made Sunday night seem a little more distant.

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