Welcome to the Vancouver Olympic Centre, and the semi-finals of the women’s curling tournament—otherwise known as the Cheryl Bernard show. The Canadian skip/Internet sensation is finished her warm-ups and removed her earphones, and as soon as the bagpipers are done with their grand entrance, it’s game time. China vs. Sweden. Switzerland vs. Canada.
9:22 am — Much sweeping and yelling. After the first end, it’s 1-0 Team Bernard and 1-0 Team Sweden. I’m still not sure why they have to play both semi-final games at the same time. It’s like a bowling alley in here.
9:33 am — The cow bells mean Switzerland has tied it up, 1-1. On Sheet B, China has given up another point to Sweden, and now trail 2-0. Those 14 people watching back home in Beijing are surely devastated.
9:42 am — Time for a little segment I like to call: “Things You Might Not Know About Cheryl Bernard.” She co-wrote a book entitled: Between the Sheets: Creating Curling Champions. The 43-year-old also works closely with famed sports psychologist Penny Werthner, who has helped improve her focus and mental toughness. She sure looks focused today. Bernard just landed what I’ve been told is a “freeze,” which is good. Apparently.
9:50 am — Bernard hits and and sticks for two! 3-1 Canada.
10:02 am — Switzerland gets one back. 3-2 Canada. One lane over, the Chinese just got on the board. Their coach, by the way, is a Canadian named Dan Rafael. He does not generate as many Google hits as Cheryl.
10:09 am — When she isn’t curling (or being Googled) Bernard works as an insurance broker in Calgary. She owns her own company, Unigroup Western Insurance Brokers. The company home page says “Come back January 1, 2010 for the web site launch!!!” Bernard must be busy doing something else.
10:17 am — Big steal for the Swiss. 3-3 at halftime. On Sheet B, the Chinese are getting rocked. With three in the fifth end, Sweden now has a commanding 6-1 lead. The Canadians are snacking on mixed nuts and bananas.
10:36 am — Bernard just hit and stuck for another two. Canada 5, Switzerland 3. I credit the bananas.
10:51 am — No points in the seventh end. Switzerland keeps the hammer—and the crowd is waking up. I’ve never seen the wave this early in the morning (or so many beer cups). China, by the way, scored singles in the sixth and seventh, and now trail 6-3.
11:09 am — In the eighth end, Swiss skip Mirjam Ott had a chance for two and the tie, with one rock already in the button and the hammer in her hand. But she left it heavy, and had to settle for one. Canada 5, Switzerland 4. Whichever team wins, it doesn’t look like China will the opponent in the final. They’re down 9-3 to Sweden in the ninth.
11:20 am — It’s official. China’s done. And it only took nine ends. They’ll play for bronze tomorrow morning.
11:25 am — Bernard just made the shot of the morning, using her hammer in the ninth end to knock the Swiss rock out of the button and capture one. It was almost two, but the official measuring guy took out his stick and said the second Swiss rock was a smidgen closer. 6-4 Canada. On to the tenth we go…
11:38 am — Donald Sutherland and his bushy white beard are here. He looks very concerned. And homeless.
11:41 am — Swedish skip Mirjam Ott is very good. Down by two, she just squeezed her second-last rock through traffic, bumped out the Canadian stone, and left two in the house. We’re down to the wire.
11:44 am — Okay, maybe Ott isn’t that good. Down by one, she tried to hit and stick but couldn’t. Her rock slid out of the house, and that’s that. Bernard and her rink are off to the gold-medal game! Crowd is thrilled. Bernard is blowing kisses.