February 19, 2010 / 4:04 AM / in 9 years

Canadian curling captain pretty close to stardom

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian curler Cheryl Bernard, the brunette with the 500-watt smile, is sliding her way to stardom under the bright lights of Olympic coverage.

The telegenic captain of the highly favored home team has wowed hard-core curling buffs with several clutch shots so far in the tournament.

But the 43-year-old Bernard, whose team earned another win on Thursday over Germany to remain unbeaten, is also drawing converts to a sport once considered a rather stodgy pastime.

In fact, according to an article in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday, Bernard has played a role in making women’s curling “the sexiest thing at the Olympics.”

“That’s a very nice thing to say — I don’t know what to say to that,” she said, caught a bit off guard by the attention. “That’s nice.”

According to Bernard, a little sex appeal does not hurt the sport, which struggles to get the same attention as the faster disciplines of skiing or ice hockey — at least outside Canada.

“I don’t think it hurts women’s curling, as long as you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing out there and not focused on anything else,” Bernard said.

Bernard, who first pushed a rock down the ice when she was eight, is one of a new breed of players in the centuries-old sport who focus on an intensive regimen of physical and mental fitness for the game of strategy and precision.

She has not shied away from being photographed by Canadian media while putting time in at the gym.

With all the attention now focused on her Olympic debut, Bernard’s face may soon be ubiquitous as she is starting to get endorsement offers.

Bernard, who lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her partner and fellow curler Terry Meek, co-wrote a book which deals with the sport’s psychological aspects, “Between the Sheets: Creating Curling Champions.”

Now, she and team mates Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel are putting all that to work at the Vancouver Olympic Center, where they’ve beaten all comers.

On Thursday, as she has all week, Bernard put aside ear-splitting cheering from the highly partisan arena crowd to nail the last rock of the game, this time in extra ends.

The win gave Canada a tie for first place with Sweden, the defending Olympic gold-medal winner and only other unbeaten team in the tournament.

Editing by Frank Pingue

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