VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Canadian men's curling team took inspiration from a loud impromptu rendition of their national anthem to beat world champions Britain 7-6 on Saturday.
In what was billed as a possible preview of the Olympic gold medal game, captain Kevin Martin's Canadians prevailed in a tough fluctuating struggle with their longtime rivals.
Martin scored two points in the last end to seal victory but both teams were left gobsmacked by an unusual display of patriotism by most of the 5,600 fans at the Vancouver Olympic Center.
With Britain leading by one in the last end, the crowd began belting out "O Canada" en masse, forcing the curlers to halt play until the song ended.
"That's amazing -- I don't know if that's ever happened in a curling game before," Canadian curler Marc Kennedy told reporters. "It's unbelievable the support we've got out there. It's like a fifth man out there. It keeps us positive even when things aren't going so well."
The Canadian team, unbeaten after six matches, said they had ample time left to play, so they just let the crowd take over.
"That's one you'll want to put in the old memory bank in the back of your head, because I've never heard that in any sport that I've ever been to or watched on TV," Martin said.
Boisterous fans have packed the curling venue on each day of the round-robin competition and have been particularly loud when Canada play.
Some rivals have complained, prompting officials on Saturday to start telling fans to refrain from making noise when players are in action. Not all complied.
For his part, British skip David Murdoch, who has had success against the Canadians in world competitions, took the chorus in good humor after his team slipped to 3-3 in the competition.
"I thought it was hilarious," Murdoch said. "That's not something you're ever going to see ever again, is it? A curling game coming to a complete standstill due to the crowd cheering the national anthem. It's great to see."
Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email@example.com