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This bronze is like gold to Americans

Published Feb. 25, 2006

Pete Fenson wanted the curling bronze medal to come down to the final shot, and he was ready to take it.

The U.S. skip bent his rock into the target area, where it stopped inside of Britain's best hope and clinched the Americans' first Olympic curling medal. Then the usually stone-faced Fenson broke into a grin and raise his broom in victory.

"Our job's done here," he said Friday after winning 8-6 for the first American curling medal in a major men's competition since 1978. "It adds to the credibility for us. Hopefully it will have a great impact in the States."

"The drought's finally over," said Ed Lukowich, a former world champion brought in from Canada to help coach the U.S. national teams. "Bronze, for the U.S., is like winning the gold."

The victory was emotional for U.S. third Shawn Rojeski; it was the second anniversary of his mother's death. He carried a picture of his mother, Bonnie, with him throughout the tournament.

"This team is extremely satisfied with the way they played today - and for myself, it's that much of a better moment, for sure," he said.

The Canadian men routed Finland 10-4 for the gold medal. Canada (8-3) broke it open with six points in the sixth end, or inning, and Finland conceded after eight.

Canada's Russ Howard, 50, became the oldest Winter Olympic gold medalist. The two-time world champion said this is his greatest accomplishment.

"Number One - honest, honest," he said. "You can only get here once every four years, so it's harder. The Olympic pressure, you've got the flag at your back, you're supposed to win - this is better."

Said Canadian alternate Mike Adam, who gave up his spot in the lineup to make room for Howard: "There's no one I'd rather step down for."


American Hays to retire

ON THE ICE: Todd Hays says his Olympic career is over. His gold-medal chances look to be, too.

The 36-year-old Texan, who won the U.S. bobsled team's first Olympic medal in 46 years at Salt Lake City in 2002, said he will retire after his final two slides at the Turin Games. He said he had contemplated his surprising announcement for several weeks.

"You'll see every ounce of energy that I have in this sport," said Hays, in seventh after his first two runs. "Unfortunately it didn't go as I'd hoped, but fortunately I know there's a lot worse things in life than not finishing the Olympic Games with a medal."

Hays completed his two runs in 1 minute, 50.99 seconds and was .49 seconds - a sliding eternity - behind Germany's Andre Lange. Hays was .32 seconds from winning a bronze.

Switzerland's Martin Annen was second, .13 seconds back. Russia's Alexander Zoubkov was third, followed by Canada's Pierre Lueders, Germany's Rene Spies and Steve Holcomb in USA-2.

UP NEXT: Today, the four-man bobsled final.

QUOTABLE: "I've seen guys come back from worse. It's going to be real, real tough. I'm not going to kid you. If I thought crashing would get it done, I'd definitely do it." - Hays


Going out with gold

ON THE SNOW: Katerina Neumannova won gold in the women's 30-kilometer cross-country race to cap her career and give the Czech Republic its first top placing in Turin.

Battling a cold, she sprinted past her closest rivals in the last 50 meters to win in 1:22.25, just over a second quicker than 1998 champion Julija Tchepalova of Russia and Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk. Estonia's Kristina Smigun, chasing a third gold in Turin, was eighth.

Neumannova, 33, had five previous medals dating to the 1998 Games. This is her last Olympics.

UP NEXT: Sunday, men's 50-kilometer race.

QUOTABLE: "It's like a dream, and I do not want to wake up. I wanted Olympic gold for so long." - Neumannova