SOCHI, Russia (AP) – Muscles bulging out of their tight tops, Canada’s curlers threw down their brooms and unleashed giant roars after the game-winning rock settled in the house.
The ‘Buff Boys’ sure did beat up the British in the men’s Olympic final.
Canada won a third consecutive Olympic title in devastating fashion on Friday, running over Britain 9-3 in just eight ends to match the biggest margin of victory in a Winter Games final.
“I was really expecting to have to make my last one, or to be in a nail-biter,” Canada skip Brad Jacobs said. “You never expect to go out there and blow a team out.”
All those 6 a.m. gym sessions really paid off for Jacobs’ rink, which has brought previously unseen levels of fitness to a sport sometimes ridiculed as “housework on ice.” Even after gold was safely secured, Jacobs, Ryan Fry and brothers Ryan and E.J. Harnden jumped in unison onto the top step of the podium in the flower ceremony, then jogged around the Ice Cube taking in the cheers of pockets of Canadian fans.
Their aggressive, confrontational style on the ice isn’t to everyone’s liking, but it’s certainly effective.
Just ask the British – they were virtually down and out after three ends. Behind 5-1 to the world’s best team, Britain skip David Murdoch knew by that stage there was no coming back.
“We didn’t get off to a good start,” he said. “And that’s what really killed us.”
After Britain’s near misses at the last two Olympics, just reaching the final was more than Murdoch and his young team could have hoped for. But Canada didn’t want to stop there.
When it comes to curling, Canada always expects gold. It’s the country’s No. 2 winter sport and it owns most of the world’s top players. National championships are often tougher than Olympic Games.
And the Canadians have delivered. For the first time since the sport returned to the Olympic program, the same country has won gold in the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Jennifer Jones’ rink went 11-0 as Canada reclaimed the women’s title for the first time in 16 years and Jacobs won eight straight games in the men’s event.
“Curling is a Canadian sport,” Jacobs said, “and it goes to show we are still at the top.”
The seeds of this victory for Jacobs’ rink may have been sewn in some potentially ill-advised words by Britain coach Soren Gran on the eve of the final.
Gran criticized the aggressive approach of the Canadians, saying it was “something I don’t like about the sport.”
Jacobs didn’t need any more motivation.
“I really think that was a big mistake on his part,” Jacobs said. “I really believe in karma and I think that’s what you maybe saw out there tonight.”
Playing to the backdrop of cowbells and shouts from four Elvis Presley impersonators, Canada was on top right from the start, scoring two points in the first end and three more in the third. Britain’s mistakes were piling up. “This is not looking good,” Murdoch muttered.
Murdoch – a two-time world champion – was heavy with two routine draws into an open house in the fourth end and Canada stole a point. It was damage limitation for Britain from then on, although a concession wasn’t possible under the tournament rules until after eight ends.
When Jacobs threw down an easy nose hit with the last stone of the eighth, the British offered their hands. They’d had enough punishment.
Jacobs’ team has become the new force in curling in a breakthrough year where it followed up a national title by sweeping through the Olympic trials unbeaten – an unprecedented achievement in their country’s storied curling history.
But they started out in Sochi at 1-2 and some were doubting whether the pressure of representing Canada was too much.
“It’s always hard to wear the Maple Leaf,” Jacobs said. “We are expected, Canada, to at least medal and if not win a gold. It’s tough to carry that weight on your shoulders.
“Now we are gold-medal winners. And I’m relieved.”
The six-point victory margin equaled Canada’s 10-4 win over Finland in the 2006 final and Switzerland’s 9-3 win against Canada in Nagano in 1998.
Sweden beat China 6-4 earlier Friday to win the bronze medal.
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