Ch­eryl Bernard beats reign­ing Olympic gold medal­list, clinches play­off spot

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

VAN­COU­VER (CP) — Ever since she clinched her spot at the Van­cou­ver Olympics, Cana­dian curler Ch­eryl Bernard has heard her rink lacks the in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence to thrive on sport’s big­gest stage.

She doesn’t ex­pect to hear that any­more.

Bernard clinched a spot in the women’s curl­ing play­off round with a 6-2 pound­ing of de­fend­ing Olympic gold medal­list Anette Nor­berg of Swe­den on Mon­day. With an­other round-robin victory, Bernard can clinch the No. 1 seed in the tour­na­ment.

“Our lack of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence is prob­a­bly over now,” Bernard said. “That for us is a re­ally good thing be­cause that was kind of a mon­key on our back com­ing in here, that we didn’t have any.”

Bernard’s tilt with Nor­berg was billed as a pos­si­ble gold medal preview — the two rinks en­tered the game with iden­ti­cal 5-1 records, good for first place in the tour­na­ment.

But while the Cal­gary skip, along with third Su­san O’Con­nor, sec­ond Carolyn Dar­byshire, and lead Cori Bar­tel brought a game wor­thy of sport’s big­gest prize, the same could not be said of Nor­berg’s rink.

Bernard jumped out to an early 2-0 lead af­ter Nor­berg left a sec­ond-end stone ex­posed near the but­ton. Bernard eas­ily banged the Swedish rock out of the house with her ham­mer and stuck in the four­foot cir­cle, good for the deuce.

Nor­berg had a chance to cut into the lead with a draw to the four-foot marker one end later but her ham­mer slid to the back of the rings, giv­ing Canada a steal of one and a 3-0 lead.

Bernard’s rink picked up an­other steal in the fourth end when Nor­berg — clearly strug­gling with her feel of the rock — again sailed a rou­tine draw through the four­foot marker.

Nor­berg fi­nally got on the board with a sin­gle in the fifth, but Canada an­swered with a sin­gle of its own in the sev­enth to in­crease the lead to 5-1.

Nor­berg had a chance to cut into Canada’s lead in the eighth frame but her take­out at­tempt wrecked on a guard, giv­ing Canada a 6-1 edge and seal­ing Swe­den’s fate.

In the ninth, with the game out of hand, Cana­dian al­ter­nate Kristie Moore even made it onto the ice. Moore is five and a half months preg­nant.

“It was pretty neat,” said Moore, who would have re­ceived a medal even if she didn’t phys­i­cally com­pete. “It brings back mem­o­ries of when I played in the world ju­nior fi­nals way back, and it will be amaz­ing that one day I can tell my baby that I was in the Olympics.”

Bernard said she was thrilled to earn a play­off berth and to get Moore in the game, though she was sur­prised Nor­berg’s misses.

“ We haven’t seen the last of them, for sure, and that won’t be the type of game they play next time,” Bernard said.

“ We hadn’t re­ally hon­estly thought much about medals. We thought about play­off spots be­cause if you think of both it gets to be so much.”

Swe­den is now 5-2 at the Olympics and sits all alone in sec­ond place, be­hind Canada (6-1). Nip­ping at Swe­den’s heels is China (5-3), which was up­set 7-4 by Rus­sia on Mon­day.

Daniel Rafael, the Chi­nese na­tional team’s Cana­dian-born coach, said his rink just doesn’t have the pas­sion for the game that other teams do and his play­ers treat curl­ing like a job.

“ We show up to­day against a bot­tom-feeder and we don’t make a shot,” he said.

Rafael, whose con­tract ex­pires in June, said he won’t re­turn to coach the team and he de­scribed him­self as “fu­ri­ous” at his rink’s re­ac­tion to the loss that wiped out any chance China had at the No. 1 seed.

“They think it’s funny, for what­ever rea­son,” he said.

Skip Wang Bingyu said she and her rink do love the game, though she wouldn’t deny Rafael’s as­ser­tion that mem­bers of the team plan to give up curl­ing when the Olympics are over.

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