Mon. Spotlight - Winter Sports: Experience an asset to K-Mart
Experience an asset when competing in a curling Skins Game says reigning Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin
If Canadians hold the sport of curling near and dear to their hearts, then they also hold a truly special place in their hearts for our world champions, like Kevin Martin. And in the wake of his rink’s recent Capital One Canada Cup of Curling victory, the 45-year-old skip will one last time try to bring his warm smile and country charm to the Olympic podium.
On Dec. 4, Martin and his Edmonton team of lead Ben Hebert, second Marc Kennedy and third John Morris defeated Glenn Howard of Ontario 7-4 at Cranbrook, B.C. and grabbed a berth in the 2013 Olympic trials. The Saville Sports Centre rink also earned a berth at the 2012 Canada Cup in Moose Jaw and the 2013 Continental Cup in Penticton, B.C., along with a $26,000 winner’s cheque.
Martin, known affectionately as “K-Mart” to his legion of fans, is a four-time Brier champion, 2008 World Champion, 2002 Olympic Silver medallist and Gold medallist at the 2010 Vancouver Games. The winner of the Olympic trials in Winnipeg will represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Martin, a farm boy from Killam, Alta. who idolized former Brier and World Champion curler Ed Lukowich of Calgary, has said he will retire after the 2014 Olympics. A pro since 1987, Martin can no longer endure long practices, and travel is taking its toll. There are businesses to run, too, including his popular Kevin’s Rocks ‘N Racquets sporting goods store and an M&M Meat Shops store in Edmonton. But there’s still competitive fire in his belly – bad news for fellow curlers.
“It’s sure different curling when you’re in your 20s,” said Martin, fresh from his Canada Cup victory. “As a skip, your knowledge isn’t there. By the time you reach your 30s, you’ve been skipping your whole life – you have experience. And by your 40s you understand the game really well. But the problem is, your body isn’t young anymore.
“I’m a lot more patient now,” said Martin, “and I don’t worry about winning or losing, which I think certainly helps in a game like curling … where it’s a mental game. You still have to stay in really good shape, so that your brain is sharp by the end of the week. But patience is really important in our sport. That’s why you see Howard (49), Jeff Stoughton (48) and myself doing really well in a sport at our age.”
Curling and television are perfect partners, so it’s no surprise that network bosses use Martin’s sport to engage Canadians coast to coast. TSN scored an average 491,000 viewers for the Canada Cup men’s final. Martin says the upcoming TSN Curling Skins Game Jan. 7 and 8 at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont. will provide fans both at home and at the rink with a unique perspective.
“Skins Games are my favourite,” said Martin. “The first half is all about the crowd because the money builds up at the end, so it’s all about entertaining. It’s a different mental game. I like how it turns from a fun game to an incredibly stressful game in a two-hour period.
“At Casino Rama they have all of our mics live to the crowd so everybody in that building will be tuned into our voices. Even if we whisper anything, they’ll hear us. Sometimes you forget that you’re mic’d live and you can say some stuff that is a little racy or off the wall. Of course, the crowd hears that and they just roar.”
Preparation for a Skins Game versus a regular competitive bonspiel is quite similar, said Martin, but he again stresses the importance of experience when curling in a Skins competition. Martin said younger curlers take to the ice with the same mentality as a regular contest, and worry about winning early skins despite the fact big money builds up at the end.
“I think the school of hard knocks is the best place to learn about Skins Games. It’s about entertainment and promoting your sport and your team, and your personality,” Martin said.
Looking ahead, Martin said earning a spot in the 2013 Brier in Edmonton would be a huge thrill. “Edmonton is such a good city for putting on championship curling events (where fans) have a deep knowledge of the sport because they all play it.” He added, “It makes it more fun for us.”
Winning the Canada Cup and a berth in the 2013 Olympic trials now allows the Martin rink to “focus on that event and not have to worry about qualifying for it,” according to second Kennedy. But you can bet the entire team, skipped by The Old Bear, will take it one game at a time.
• Birth Date: July 31, 1966
• Birtplace: Killam, Alta.
• Resides: Edmonton
• Individual Highlights: 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist; 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist; 2008 World Champion; 4-time Brier Champion; 10-time Alberta Provincial Champion