VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Kevin Martin crouches into his curling stance, gently brushes the ice with his hand to move any flakes and gives the sheet in front of him one last stare. He releases his rock, then talks it all the way to the house.
The stone settles perfectly in the button. He sure has been on target in these Olympics.
Canada's 43-year-old skip, nicknamed "Old Bear," is headed toward the finish line of the Vancouver Games in a run that has been nothing short of spectacular.
Wayne Gretzky sent him a good-luck message and even came to a game. Canadian fans taunt the team's opponents with the chant: "Don't wake the Bear! Don't wake the Bear!"
"He's legitimately the Michael Jordan of curling. Has been for 20 years," American skip John Shuster said Monday after the U.S. lost 7-2 to Canada in a shortened nine-end match.
Ever humble, Martin is always quick to credit his sweepers for their part in helping his shots and contributing to his country's success in its No. 2 sport behind hockey.
"It's a team game here," he said. "It's not about you making a shot or missing a shot."
While there haven't been many misses, he's had big ones in the past. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Martin fell short of gold by about an inch. In 2006, he failed to advance even to the final of the Canadian Olympic trials.
In Vancouver, he has his team a perfect 8-0, with one last round-robin game against China on Tuesday before Canada plays as the top seed in Thursday's men's semifinals.
"He's got an unbelievable team," Shuster said. "So it's not just him. That's a great curling team, one that many curling teams have tried to model their teams after."
Canadian lead Ben Hebert said Martin, by far the most experienced on the team, keeps everything in perspective when it comes to everyday results.
"It's not always about winning every event but giving yourself a chance to win every event," Martin said. "Every time we do get to a final, it's good playing in front of a big crowd."
And the home fans have been raucous. On Saturday night, Martin's match against reigning world champion Britain stopped in the 10th end while some 5,000 Canadians belted out "O Canada" in an incredible show of patriotism.
After Monday's win, Martin raised his broom in the air to acknowledge the roaring faithful. He called the spontaneous national anthem something he'll remember the rest of his life.
"That's one you want to put in the old memory bank, right in the back of your head," he said. "I won't forget that one, because I've never heard that in any sport I've ever been to."
A day later, Martin patted Switzerland fourth Ralph Stoeckli on the belly as they shared a laugh between shots. He even stole a glance at the U.S.-Britain match two sheets over and still maintained his impeccable focus.
He has his routine down to a science after more than three decades of throwing granite rocks. From Martin's customary moves before every throw to an off-ice training regimen, Martin is all about repetition and preparation.
The Canadian foursome is in its fourth year together, and second Marc Kennedy acknowledges the others may take for granted having arguably the world's No. 1 curler as their leader.
"He's probably the most experienced curler there is when it comes to big games, big events and to rise to the occasion in big events," Kennedy said. "Kevin's a pretty special breed when it comes to curling."
Canada's seasoned captain has had a decorated career: a world championship, three national titles, a boatload of accolades at the junior level and a long list of other honors. The only thing missing is a gold medal.
This might be Martin's last hurrah in the Maple Leaf with the whole world watching, and he put his team together with a clear mission -- reaching the top of the podium in Vancouver.
"I don't think I dwell on it anymore, just play," he said. "But I am getting out to watch a lot of things, cheering on my teammates. ... I'm trying to make sure we experience as much of it as we can. It's all good. I'm really enjoying it."
Canada already got by the Brits once, ending a four-game losing streak to Scottish skip David Murdoch's team. They could still meet again in the medal round.
Martin -- also known as "K-Mart" -- is considered a brilliant strategist, always planning his next move, thinking a few steps ahead and anticipating opponents' shots.
He's smooth on the ice, rarely showing emotion or letting the occasional bad decision affect him. When he nails a key draw or takeout, he often slides back down the ice with his head down as the crowd cheers.
He could be seen chuckling and smiling while talking to teammate John Morris after converting a shot to the button against Britain. That make got the "Great One" -- Gretzky -- himself on his feet for a standing ovation.
Martin demands top fitness and commitment from his teammates, though he did give them a few weeks off after winning the trials in December. Curling can be strenuous -- imagine holding your leg in a deep, prolonged lunge and sliding that way over and over, or bending at the back and frantically sweeping for 150 feet.
Martin's own dedication to being in top physical condition has helped him dominate well into his 40s.
"For Kevin, it's been his durability," Kennedy said. "He's a pretty calm guy. Sometimes it's us young guys who get fired up too much. He's not too worried about winning. To him it's about preparing properly and doing your absolute best."