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Olympic Insider Report – February 27th

I can’t believe it’s over. The Insider, along with millions of curling fans around the world, has felt every emotion possible over the past 12 days of the Winter Olympics curling competition at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, and being a part of it all was an amazing experience.

The curling wrapped up Saturday night when The Old Bear finally (!!!!) won an Olympic gold medal by beating Thomas Ulsrud of Norway in the final. Kevin, John, Marc, Ben, Adam, coach Jules and coach Jim made Canada proud with their efforts during the week in Vancouver, and Kevin came so close to the top step of the podium in 2002, it was fabulous to see him finally have a gold medal hung around his neck on Saturday. I know his parents Ab and Bev were so proud of him, and so was his wife Shauna.

I know there was a wonderful celebration after the game with friends and family who supported the guys all year — for a lot of years, really — and all the hard work paid off in the gold-medal game.

There will be some chances to see Kevin and the guys in the next little while. The Insider hears that they make an appearance in Halifax during the Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Monsanto. The Brier gets underway next Saturday at the Metro Centre, and it’s going to seem strange not to see Kevin’s team playing there!

Also, there’s a chance Team Canada will be in London, Ont., for an appearance to help drum up some interest for the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier, which will be played at the John Labatt Centre.

Wow, there were some more big names taking in the curling over the last couple of days! Prime Minister Stephen Harper took in the gold-medal games, and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff also attended.

And the guy with the flowing grey hair and distinctive voice sitting in the VIP section? Why, it was none other than Donald Sutherland, who’s been a part of those great Vancouver Olympics commercials leading up to the Games.

Oh, by the way, as I was running down the names of some of the people who were doing television work during the Olympics, I forgot to mention the great Elisabet Gustafson of Sweden, a four-time world champion. Elisabet, I’m sure, was thrilled to see Anette Norberg win the women’s gold medal on Friday, and equally happy to see young Niklas Edin do so incredibly well in the men’s event, placing fourth after losing the bronze-medal game to Switzerland on Saturday.

So that’s just about it from Vancouver. It was a terrific Olympic tournament, and it couldn’t have been done without the amazing efforts of all of the volunteers, officials and the curlers. No curling event, big or small, works without a lot of people doing a lot of hard work, most of it behind the scenes and most of it unappreciated. So the Insider wants to pay a special salute to all the volunteers who poured their heart and soul into the Olympics, and always did it with smiles on their faces. You could always find a volunteer in Vancouver; they were the ones with the blue jackets and the big smiles!

Thanks also to the curlers, who showed amazing grace under pressure. Remember, these are still amateur athletes, who all have jobs to go back to next week when they head home. There’s a saying that curlers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And if you didn’t believe that before the Olympics, you certainly should now.

Let’s not forget the families and friends of the curlers, who also make sacrifices as they support the players on the ice. They were always behind Team Canada 100 per cent, and I know the players truly appreciated their constant support.

And the fans? What else can you say? Canadians did themselves proud with their support of our athletes. It was an electric atmosphere at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, one that may never be replicated — that is, until the Olympics return to Canada!