As the first stone was in flight of the gold medal women's curling game I hastily predicted a Sweden 7-6 victory. Between the veteran experience provided by Canada and Sweden (Cheryl Bernard and Anette Norberg, the respective skips, were both 43 years old), I figured exemplary shots from both sides were bound to happen, and the game would be won by makes and not misses.
I should've just stuck with the 7-6 prediction, which turned out to be true. But everyone's going to be talking about Bernard's misses.
After a 4-2 Sweden lead dissipated into a 6-4 Canada advantage, the Swedish women had to play catch-up. Norberg's light draw cost them two points in the seventh, and a missed double takeout in the ninth wound up giving another point to Canada.
Fast forward to the end of the 10th. The defense was unforgiving. Canadian second Carolyn Darbyshire made her shots. Then vice-skip Karen O'Connor made hers. And Bernard's first shot rang true. After Norberg responded with a hit and roll into a favorable position, Bernard was left with a wide open shot for the win.
You'd think a 43-year-old curler from Canada would be well accomplished. But Bernard's team had never played in the Olympics or in a world championship. Even after winning the Roar of the Rings tournament which placed them in the Olympics, the Canadian Curling Association still had Bernard's team ranked No. 4 in the country. They were relatively green for being so experienced. We dismissed what they didn't do because they went 8-1 in Olympic round robin play and were in position to win gold on this very shot.
So this was nothing more than an open takeout. Hit the Sweden stone on the nose and it's a gold medal. As she delivered and released her last stone, she even yelled "clean" to her sweepers, usually the signature of a perfect shot, and I could even discern a smile from that strikingly competitive face. But they were soon called off, signaling a wide shot that needed to curl on its own. She hit the Sweden stone on its side, which jammed and stayed in play. Canada's rock then sailed harmlessly out of the rings. Norberg's similarly-difficult takeout shot scored two. Extra ends.
The 11th was another cat-and-mouse end that quickly found itself down to Bernard and Norberg. Teams who are tied with the hammer in the final end win 74 percent of the time, and this time Canada had it. (Although when they were up two without the hammer, Canada's winning percentage was a less surmountable 90 percent.) Norberg's last rock of the extra frame gave Bernard the opportunity for an open double takeout to win. This has a higher degree of difficulty than a regular takeout, but it may as well be curling immortality's bar exam.
I'll let the official infographic explain it all:
Remarkable. The "couldn't win the big one" bugaboo rang partially true. The thing is, a silver medal is still a medal, and it's probably more than most Canadians would have figured for Bernard headed into the Olympics.
As for Norberg, Eva Lund, Cathrine Lindahl, and Anna Le Moine, they now own two straight gold medals. They're the only team to win back-to-back golds while staying intact, and that could be a feat that will stand alone for quite some time. Even if they do retire tomorrow, the aging quartet will not be seen much longer on the world circuit. This was their introduction to greenhorn fans and their farewell to the lifetime audience member.