VANCOUVER — The final stone that had been so kind to the Canadian women’s curling team at the Vancouver Winter Games finally betrayed Cheryl Bernard — and it happened at the worst possible time.
The 43-year-old Calgary skip will have to settle for silver as a result, dropping a 7-6 decision to Sweden in the Olympic final.
Bernard had opportunities in both the 10th and 11th ends against defending Olympic champion Anette Norberg to clinch sport’s biggest prize
Bernard was up 6-4 in the 10th end and had to make a routine takeout with her final stone. The crowd rose in anticipation of the win, then gasped as Sweden’s stone stuck in the rings, leaving Norberg with an easy takeout of her own to force an extra frame. She didn’t miss.
In the 11th, Bernard’s rink made the choice to wipe out a guard with the skip’s first stone.
That decision opened up space for Norberg to hit and roll and she sat two rocks on the edge of the button as Bernard readied her hammer. But Bernard would have to make a double takeout for two and when one of the Swedish stones wouldn’t budge, Sweden had won gold.
“I can’t believe it yet, said Cathrine Lindahl, Sweden’s second. ”It felt like an easy shot for her and we just said, ‘Oh a silver medal is good anyway’ and then we got the gold. It’s unbelievable.“
The finale was shown on the big screen at Canada Hockey Place during the warmup before the Canada-Slovakia men’s semifinal. The crowd groaned as Bernard missed the shot.
“I had two chances to win that game and my team gave them to me in 10 and 11, couldn’t ask for anymore,” said a teary-eyed Bernard, her voice breaking at times. “That’s kind of it.
“Eventually this silver’s going to feel really great. Just right now, the gold was very close.”
Bernard had been trying to become the first Canadian women’s skip to win Olympic gold since Sandra Schmirler in 1998.
Bernard trailed 4-3 in the seventh end but Sweden had control of the hammer and time appeared to be running out on Canada’s quest for gold. But Bernard made a masterful takeout with her last shot, tapping one of her rocks that had been sitting in the four-foot back into a Swedish stone. The shot left Canada lying two and forced Norberg into a draw.
Norberg, who had outplayed Bernard through the first half of the match, picked a terrible time for her first big miss of the day. Her hammer didn’t even get close to the house, giving Canada a steal of two, a 5-4 lead and control of the game.
The teams blanked the eighth end but Norberg had a chance to pull even in the ninth.
Canada was lying two in the rings but all the Swedish skip had to do was hit and stick in the eight-foot. Her shooter, however, slid out of the house, giving Canada a steal of one and a 6-4 lead.
Norberg retained the hammer for the 10th end but needed to score two to force an extra frame.
Her journey to a second Olympic gold medal appeared over when Bernard lined up her final stone, needing only a simple takeout to secure the win for Canada.
The crowd readied to explode but the party was put on hold — Bernard couldn’t remove the Swedish stone from the house.
Norberg scored two with her next throw and to the 11th it went.
If the Canadians were tense going into the extra end, they didn’t show it. Bernard, third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire, and lead Cori Bartel shared a laugh with coach Dennis Balderston during the break.
Sweden had two rocks in the four-foot when Bernard was given another chance to win with her hammer.
Bernard needed a double-takeout but could only wipe out one of the rocks. The crowd gasped and the Swedes started celebrating.
As was the case for much of the tournament, the Canadian rink played it close to the vest to start the game. Bernard landed a takeout with her final stone in the first end but deliberately slid her shooter out of the rings to ensure the blank and retain the hammer.
In the second end, Sweden was lying shot-stone when Bernard lined up for her first throw.
As was the case every time she stepped into the hack Friday, Bernard received a thundering chorus of cheers from the 5,600 people in attendance.
Among those in the crowd were Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and King Carl Gustaf of Sweden. Canadian men’s skip Kevin Martin, was also in the seats.
Bernard didn’t disappoint the fans with her first rock, sliding her stone into the four-foot circle to lie shot-stone and she caught a break one delivery later when Norberg wrecked on a guard.
That left Bernard with an open draw for two but this time she couldn’t come through. Her stone slid to a stop in the 12-foot circle, giving Canada the 1-0 lead but handing Sweden the hammer.
Norberg took advantage of that hammer in the third end. She knocked one of Bernard’s rocks out of the rings with her final stone and stuck in the eight-foot marker to take a 2-1 lead.
Canada evened the score at two one end later. With Sweden lying a pair of stones in the eight-foot circle, Bernard snuck a draw through a bevy of yellow rocks, much to the crowd’s delight.
In the fifth end, Sweden held shot-stone when Bernard went for a freeze at the edge of the button with her last rock. But once again, she came up short, mere inches this time.
Norberg drew for two and took a 4-2 lead into the break.
Bernard curled 78 per cent through the first five ends and O’Connor checked in at 70 per cent. Norberg, on the other hand, was at 85 per cent.
Bernard cut into the lead in the sixth end, but had to settle for just one point after Norberg drilled a takeout with her final stone. Bernard answered with a takeout of her own, but Sweden regained control of the hammer.