Americans claim bronze


TURIN, Italy -- The guys on the U.S. men's curling team will take home some vivid memories of their time at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Like a visit to the medals plaza before competition began, which they described as inspirational. Or, on a completely different note, the naked man who ran through their game against Great Britain yesterday afternoon.

"Have you ever seen a streaker in curling?" U.S. skip Pete Fenson asked the British team.

Not the sort of thing one forgets easily. Almost as memorable as that other special moment for the U.S. team - winning the nation's first curling medal.

Fenson and his rink, as a four-man team is called in this sport, took an early lead and held on for a historic, 8-6 victory in the bronze-medal game at Pinerolo Palaghiaccio. The skip sealed the win with his last throw, sliding a polished granite rock down the ice and into scoring position.

"My heart was going 100 miles an hour," he said. "It's a shot we've done hundreds or thousands of times. When I saw it curl and knew we were OK, I felt excitement, relief."

The Americans had taken control in the third end - a game comprises 10 ends, or innings - on another accurate throw by Fenson. He played a double take-out, knocking two British rocks out of the way, for three points and a 4-1 lead.

"It made it hard to come back," British skip David Murdoch said.

Murdoch's rink scrambled back with three in the seventh, closing the gap to 6-5.

But yesterday's game represented a shot at redemption for the U.S., which had been defeated handily by Canada, 11-5, in a Wednesday night semifinal.

"We were determined to get ourselves up, to play well for a medal," said U.S. team member Shawn Rojeski, whose short throw had been a turning point in that loss.

So the Americans remained accurate down the stretch against Britain, making good on 87 percent of their throws, holding onto a slim lead into the final end, which set up Fenson's deciding play.

It was the sort of day they might remember for the rest of their lives.

David Wharton writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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