Martin shakes monkey off his back to win men’s world curling championship

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – It was a victory celebration 22 years in the making.

Kevin Martin’s routine takeout in the 10th end gave Canada a 6-3 victory over Scotland’s David Murdoch at the men’s world curling championship Sunday. After the shot the usually stoic Edmonton skip raised his arms in celebration, tossing a load of frustration and failure off his back.

“We hadn’t finished one off,” Martin, 41, said about his string of five international events where he failed to win. “We’ve been to so many international events over the years. It’s good to finish one off and put all that to rest.

“For myself, I don’t think I would have had trouble sleeping when I’m 68. But to just have it put to rest, that’s a good thing. Onward and upward.”

When the game was won third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert wrapped their arms around each other in the house. Martin slid down the ice, broom raised over his head.

There might have even been a tear at the corner of his eye.

“You must be seeing the wrong thing,” Martin joked after receiving a big hug from his wife Shauna. “What ever.”

Morris said it was a thrill to see Martin win a championship after coming home empty handed from the 1986 world juniors, the 1991 and 1997 men’s championships, and two Olympics.

“Our goal was to come in to win this one for skipper,” said Morris, the two-time world junior champion who joined the Alberta rink two years ago. “We came through. I was really proud of Kevin.

“He had a great game today.”

Martin paved his road to victory with a crucial steal in the seventh end. He made a highlight-reel shot to take out a Scottish rock and roll behind a guard in the four-foot. That forced Murdoch to try a circus shot with this last rock.

The Scottish skip attempted an angle-raised takeout. His rock hit one Canadian stone, then rolled across the house and just barely missed the second rock. That allowed Martin the steal and a 4-1 lead.

Martin took a commanding 6-3 lead into the final end after scoring two in the ninth by blasting a Scottish stone out of a pocket of two other rocks.

The Scots ran out of rocks in the 10th.

It was a frustrating loss for Murdoch, who won the 2006 world championship and lost the 2005 final to Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey.

“I had a couple chances to get my nose in front and I never took them,” he said. “We wanted to play a hard game and I don’t think we really did that today.”

The goal for Murdoch and his team of Graeme Connal, Peter Smith and Euan Byers is to play at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“We won the European Championships and made the final here today,” said the 29-year-old from Lochmagen. “If we can carry that through for the next few years, we’re aiming for Vancouver.

“We’ll take that experience and carry it forward.”

It was Canada’s 31st victory at the world championship since 1959. It comes on the heels of Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg winning the women’s world championship last month in Vernon, B.C.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated the team in a statement.

“Along with all Canadians, I am extremely proud of the outstanding and exciting performance by our men’s curling team at the 2008 World Curling Championships,” Harper’s statement read. “Their play throughout the tournament proved that Canadian players have the talent to compete and win against the best in the world.”

The final was a tactical match. The game swung in Canada’s favour because Martin’s front end of Kennedy and Herbert outperformed their Scottish counterparts. They made shots that set up the end so Martin could score points on his last rock.

Kennedy said failing to win an international title bothered Martin more than he let on.

“That’s a big monkey on his back, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, the last 15 years,” Kennedy said. “Our goal for the three young guys was let’s make it as easy as possible for Kevin.”

Martin said his team showed its grit after a heart-wrenching, 7-6 loss to Scotland in Friday’s playoff. Martin could have won that game but was heavy on his last draw, allowing Murdoch to steal a point.

The Alberta rink rebounded with a convincing 5-4 victory over Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud Saturday.

“We have a very good team, a very solid team,” Martin said. “We took that loss on the chin two nights ago and that was a tough loss to take.

“We came back and played our best game in six months that next day. That shows a lot for the team.”

There was plenty of Canadian content in the crowd of 4,211 at the 11,600-seat Ralph Engelstad Arena. Many came with their faces painted, waved Maple Leafs and roared their approval each time Martin’s team made a shot.

Although outnumbered, a group of Scottish fans refused to be shouted down. They serenaded their team with chants and fight songs.

Total attendance for the week was 51,731.

Winning the world championship gives Martin a spot in the Olympic curling trials to be held Dec. 6-13, 2009, in Edmonton.

“That Olympic gold, I want a chance at,” he said.

Ulsrud defeated China for the bronze medal Saturday night.

Martin has won close to $1 million in cash bonspiels during his career. But he often came away empty handed from major international competitions where national pride, not cash, was up for grabs.

The three-time Brier winner finished fourth in his last trip to the world championship in 1997. He lost the 1991 final to Scotland’s David Smith.

Martin looked to have a gold medal wrapped up at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics but had to settle for silver after being heavy on his last-shot draw in the final. He finished fourth at the 1992 Albertville Olympics when curling was a demonstration sport.

Martin also was second at the 1986 world junior championships.

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