VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Maybe the king will wear the pants.
Curling has been as cool as those pebbled sheets of ice at the Vancouver Games, with cowbell-clanging fans packing the stands and Norway’s men’s team becoming international cult heroes with their gaudy diamond-print pants.
Can today’s gold-medal game get any cooler? Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud hopes so — if King Harald V turns up for the showdown with undefeated Canada bedecked in the 2010 Olympics’ most famous trousers.
Considering the king politely declined to try on the pants for the team when he was presented with a pair Tuesday, a royal fashion statement seems unlikely. Ulsrud would happily just take another appearance by the king, who watched the team’s win over Britain and gave the curlers a pep talk.
Even louder than Norway’s pants have been the crowds at the Vancouver Olympic Center. The Norwegians’ multihued attire have made them quite popular — though not against the home country.
“It’s going to be like 5,000 for Canada and maybe 500 for Norway,” Ulsrud said. “The good thing about Norwegian fans, though, you will recognize them. They’ll have some funny pants on.”
Norway is up against more than thousands of rowdy fans. Canada is the defending champion and is in position to become the first team to go undefeated since curling was reinstated as a medal sport in 1998. And add in sentiment to dominant: A win would give an elusive gold medal to 43-year-old skip Kevin Martin.
Norway won Olympic gold by an inch in 2002 — against a Canada team with Martin as its skip. Martin didn’t make the 2006 team.
In contrast to the Norwegians’ gaudy, multihued slacks is the sleek, black bobsled driven by American Steve Holcomb. Today, he could win the first four-man gold medal for the United States in 62 years.
Holcomb and his teammates in USA-1, better known as “The Night Train,” are in first place halfway through the competition, with the final two runs scheduled for Saturday.
The Americans have a chance at two unexpected medals in speedskating Saturday in the team pursuit, as two veterans heading into retirement look to add to their medal collections. The men face Canada in the final, with 32-year-old Chad Hedrick guaranteed a fifth career medal. And Jennifer Rodriguez could earn her third career medal at 33 as the women take on Germany in the semifinals. Even with a loss, they’ll have a chance at bronze against Japan or Poland.