Kevin Martin - Curling

Curling is an obsession in Canada, and second only to ice hockey in the nation’s affections. Going into Vancouver 2010, Kevin Martin, the skip of the men’s national team, was the sport’s biggest star. Martin was a veteran of many major contests, but none bigger than this one. He and his rink knew the pressure would be immense and that the home support fully expected them to deliver the gold medal. Martin had a lot on his shoulders, but at 43, he also had a lot of experience to draw on. His only previous appearance at the Winter Games had come back in 2002 in Salt Lake City, when Canada had taken silver. Here, on home ice, that would not be good enough.

Martin’s rink had secured their place at the 2010 Games on the back of a two-year run of fine results. They won the 2008 World Championship crown and finished runners-up the following year, beaten by a British rink that was tipped to provide one of their stiffest tests in Vancouver. Still, the home team, with Ben Hebert as lead, Marc Kennedy second and John Morris third, had every reason to feel confident in their abilities.

Their opening match was a tense affair, with Canada needing an extra end to seal a 7-6 victory over Norway. The hosts then found their rhythm and set off on a record-breaking streak of nine wins in as many matches to secure their place in the semi-finals.Norway and Switzerland also qualified but the much-fancied British rink was knocked out after losing their decisive round-robin game with Sweden, who claimed the last place in the semis and a showdown with Canada.

The Swedes impressed again against Martin’s rink until the halfway stage, when the Canadians surged ahead to run out 6-3 winners and set up a gold medal showdown with Norway, who beat Switzerland 7-5 in the other semi-final.

The home nation held its breath. In previous big finals Martin and his rink had shown signs of nerves. This time, though, there were no wobbles at all. Leading 3-0 at the halfway point, the home nation held off a Norwegian rally to win 6-3. The gold was theirs, and with it a new Olympic record. With 11 wins from 11 matches, they had become the first team to go through an entire Olympic curling competition unbeaten since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998.