Kevin Martin just keeps piling up the skipping laurels in the sport of curling at the highest levels.
Martin has won an Olympic gold medal, a silver medal, one world title, four Briers, more cash bonspiels than he can count. And, Sunday afternoon at the Cranbrook RecPlex, he and his team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert added a record fourth Capital One Canada Cup title (for the skip), defeating long time adversary Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., 7-4 in the championship final.
The big carrot that went with this victory, among other things, was the initial berth in the eight-team Tim Hortons Olympic Curling Trials slated for Winnipeg’s MTS Centre two years hence.
“We talked about that all week,” said Martin afterward. “It’s nice to get it out of the way. But like John (Morris) was saying, ‘now what do we do for two years?’
“This year is already set but next year, absolutely, we’ll have to have a team meeting and decide what we’re going to do and this will have a bearing on it, for sure.”
Added Morris, who enjoyed a 90-per-cent outing in the final:
“It’s all good. It’s good that the pressure’s off to really get there (Olympic trials) in the next couple of years. I think we can just re-focus on a couple of things for the next two years rather than playing tons. We’ll make sure we’re prepared properly and our training is up to par.
“Hey, we’re excited as heck. Once you get a taste of that Olympics in Vancouver you want to get back there. Now we’re on our way and we want to be the hardest-working team over the next three years.
“We have to work harder than we’ve ever worked before. We have to find a way (to get back to the Olympics). We’ve always been a motivated bunch, and I think we have a lot of big events still to come. It’s just the motivation to win Briers, to win Grand Slams, to be the top money-winner — those are the things that will motivate us, and we always have them. We can’t slack off; now’s the time to really get ’er done.”
The Martin team also won $26,000, plus entries to next year’s Canada Cup at Moose Jaw and the 2013 Continental Cup at Penticton, B.C.
It was Martin’s seventh straight win in a seven-team competition that qualified three teams for playoffs following a round-robin preliminary. Howard’s team of Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill won five of eight starts and took $16,000 runnerup money.
In the 2010 final at Medicine Hat, Howard defeated Martin 10-7 with a 10th-end three-ender.
The key shot of the game may have been Martin’s precise raise takeout in the third end. The raised rock feathered one of his own en route to the target and gave Martin a deuce and a 2-1 lead. Another deuce in the fifth and the Alberta team had control it would refuse to relinquish.
“I thought Glenn would guard that,” said Martin of the third-end shot. “Then I’d draw for one. It was a fairly easy draw. I should make it. But it’s only one. I was surprised he left that shot for me, a shot for two.”
“He made an unreal shot there — I’ll give him two out of 10 that he makes that. But he made a beauty and he got a deuce. If I’d known it was that easy, I’d have guarded it, for sure.”
At the finish, Howard still had a last-rock opportunity to stay it, with an out-turn nose hit double for a tying deuce after Martin’s last freeze to a rock in the back 12-foot was short.
“I thought he’d nose that and we’d go an extra,” Martin opined. “I don’t think he was out. Maybe he was a little heavier that he thought. It only missed by about a half-inch.”
Howard said he “figured I make that in my sleep”.
“It ran a little straighter than normal, I may have got a little full on it. We get a deuce and a chance. No guarantees but an extra end.
”Same in the ninth end. We lock in there we steal. I don’t know. Why did that not curl? I don’t know but we played on great conditions. The ice was fantastic.”
The Coldwater curler was philosophical about yet another loss to Martin, his eighth in their last 10 collisions.
“My rocks definitely ran a little straighter this game,” he said. “We had a lot of close calls and Kevin came through again. Sound familiar? It’s frustrating, obviously. He’s got us a lot. We throw the odd one in there but they’re an unreal team. They just make a ton of shots.”
Howard said he “thought we outplayed them for five ends and he was up a couple”.
“But, give them credit. His guys played well. My guys played well. And, again, you lose a measure, you lose by a hit and roll behind a corner, or a stone that’s out of the rings by a quarter-inch. It’s unbelievable, but that’s curling.
“There are seven more opportunities (for Olympic trials berths) coming up but I really wanted to get this one to get it out of the away and not have to worry about anything for the next couple of years,” Howard added. “It didn’t happen and it’s very disappointing. “Hey, I want to win. I want to win every game I play and every ‘spiel in which I play. But if we make good on one of the next seven chances, there’ll be a silver lining.”
The mention of the Olympics brings a wide smile to Martin’s countenance.
“That’s why I’m still playing,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be at three and loved each one. Once we didn’t get to the podium, once a devastating loss, once a win. And I loved all three of them. I just loved them. And I think I’m healthy enough and playing well enough to try to get to one more.”
Earlier, Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg won an Olympic trials berth and her second Canada Cup title, defeating fellow Manitoban Chelsea Carey 9-4 in the women’s final.