VANCOUVER, B.C. – The “Michael Jordan of curling” didn’t bring his A or even his B game to the Olympics on Monday but Kevin Martin’s Canadian rink was still good enough to easily defeat the United States to run its record to 8-0.
Canada gave up a rare steal in the first end and finally took control in the fourth end, but at one point Martin was curling a paltry 38 per cent efficiency while third John Morris was even worse off at 13 per cent.
“Ooh, lucky number 13,” chuckled Morris after Canada rebounded to beat John Shuster’s team 7-2.
“Yeah, a little sloppy. I don’t think it was our best first five ends but when you have round-robin first place wrapped up at this stage, I think that’s sometimes expected.”
After the game, Shuster heaped maybe the ultimate praise on Martin, anointing him “the Michael Jordan of curling”.
Martin was also laughing at his team’s first-half effort but admitted wrapping up first place going into Thursday’s semifinals took away from the team’s focus.
“We came out with a little bit of complacency or a lack of focus after yesterday’s big win,” said Martin. “But as soon as they put a scare into us we all came around really well and didn’t miss much in the last five ends.
“It was good though to see the fire in the guys and getting upset and that was perfect. You can’t breeze through these things easy and we did show a little complacency this morning.”
Martin has no idea who he will play in the semifinal but one thing is clear – the teams below him, including Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud, are scrambling to avoid him.
Ulsrud, who is 6-2 after pounding France 9-2, is in the playoffs but doesn’t yet know his final position.
“I’m going to be honest with you,” said Ulsrud, the bronze medallist at the 2009 world championships. “I would rather not play Kevin in the semis. Who else I play it doesn’t matter because we’re all really equal. It’s Kevin up there and then underneath it’s a real battle.
“I would like to meet the person who wants to play him the semis,” he chuckled.
In Monday’s late draw, world champion David Murdoch put himself in an excellent position to make the semifinals after leading his British rink to an 8-2 rout of Germany in just eight ends. Britain moved into a tie for third place with Switzerland at 5-3, while Germany finished with a 4-5 record and was eliminated. Both Britain and Switzerland can advance with a win or a Sweden loss in Tuesday’s final round-robin draw.
In other results, France beat Denmark 6-5 in an extra end while China hammered the U.S. 11-5 in nine ends.
Ulsrud said he is impressed with the way Martin has managed to deal with the high expectations of a curling-mad nation.
“Everyone is expecting him to win all the matches and it’s going to be a big disaster if they even lose a match. I’m really impressed with these guys but I think if we manage to get to a final and play Canada – I think you never know.”
Ralph Stoeckli, who throws fourth stones for Switzerland, said avoiding Canada would be great, but right now he’s focused on making the playoffs.
“If you can choose, you don’t want to play Canada,” Stoeckli said. “Everybody knows that. But first you’ve got to make it into the playoffs.”