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    Sunday, February 15, 1998

    Harris & co. collapse against friendly Swiss

    By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
    KARUIZAWA -- As Olympic gold slipped through his fingers and turned to silver, Canadian skip Mike Harris turned to his opponent and said: "I thought this would be more fun."
      "I feel sorry for you," said Swiss skip Patrick Huerlimann.
      The words were heartfelt.
      The two have been close friends, best friends, said Huerlimann, for almost half their lives.
      They first met when Harris, then 18, went to Europe to begin a career there teaching golf. He still works in Austria and often stays withe Huerlimann for a few days at the beginning of each season.
      Huerlimann learned to speak English in Canada and often stayed with Harris, a Georgetown native who lives in North York. Harris attended Huerlimann's wedding.
      That they are such close friends probably did not make yesterday's stunning collapse of the Canadian team in their 9-3 loss in the gold medal game easier on either of them.
      Huerlimann felt sorry for Harris; Harris, suffering from the flu, probably would have liked to have played his best in front of his friend.
      "That was not the Mike Harris you see on the ice normally," said the new Olympic champion. "I feel a little sorry for Mike. He didn't feel well. He's my best friend and he didn't look too good. That wasn't Mike Harris."
      His sympathy didn't prevent him from enjoying the win. When the Harris rink shook hands after eight ends, Huerlimann sank to the ice and covered his eyes with his arm.
      He began crying, a scene that was touchingly repeated when he received his medal and heard the Swiss national anthem.
      It was an emotional conclusion to the unexpected turn of events.
      Huerlimann, who curled 78% to Harris' 25%, said his rink went into the final with one thought in mind.
      "We knew the only way to play was aggressive," he said. "We knew the pressure was definitely on the Canadian team."
      Huerlimann said he wasn't put off by comments by Canadian lead George Karrys on the eve of the gold medal game that the 60th best men's club team in Canada could beat the best Europe has to offer.
      "We know Canada is strong," he said, "but we know their strategy. In key games we have a chance because all the pressure is on them.
      "If we played the Canadians 10 times, maybe we would only beat them two or three times, but in key games, I like our chances."
      In the bronze medal game, Norway's Eigil Ramsfjell rink defeated the USA foursome of Tim Somerville 9-4.