Canada's "Old Bear" mauls Norway to win gold

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By Jeffrey Jones

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada swept aside Norway to take men's curling gold, topping off an unprecedented Olympic unbeaten streak and salvaging the country's pride after the Canadian women lost the night before.

The Canadians led by Kevin Martin, who came to Vancouver as the favored team and played like men on a mission throughout the tournament, beat the Norwegians 6-3.

It was a sweet win for Martin, curling's 43-year-old "Old Bear," who narrowly lost the gold in Salt Lake City to a different Norwegian team.

"It's an amazing feeling and it will only get better and better as the day goes on and as it sinks in," Martin said after the victory.

When the sold-out crowd sensed Martin had sealed the deal by the last it broke into Canada's national anthem, a practice they initiated earlier in the competition during a game when Britain was threatening to win the match.

No other curling team has swept a modern Olympic tournament. Virtually all other competitors had said the Canadians, who also include Ben Hebert, Marc Kennedy and John Morris, were clearly the team to beat.

"We probably played one of the best teams in the history of curling here today," said Norwegian coach Pal Trulsen, the skip to whom Martin lost in 2002.

Martin said last week he did not see his squad's success as vindication for his disappointment eight years ago but stressed that he aimed to take one more step up the podium.

Canada won gold in 2006 but Martin's team did not compete.

The Norwegians, whose gawdy trousers were the subject of almost more talk than their play, provided few scares for Canada during the game. Their skip, Thomas Ulsrud, suffered a few missed shots early on, allowing Canada to steal points.

However, the silver medal-winners were pleased with the spectacle at the Vancouver Olympic Center, where the fans raised a mighty ruckus throughout the competition.

"It was great," Norway's Torger Nergaard said. "The crowd was great, and it's something that the Canadian boys are going to remember forever -- having the national anthem being sung by 6,000 fans. It's the best crowd we've ever played."

With the win, Canada upped its gold medal tally to 13, equaling the record for a Winter Olympic Games.

It also allowed the country to exhale after the Canadian women curlers lost what looked to be a sure gold on Friday.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)