The post-Olympic hangover lasted a long time for Kevin Martin's curling rink.
The team was drained after criss-crossing the country for speaking engagements and events in the year after winning gold at the Vancouver Games. After such a glorious high it was difficult to get the edge back last season, especially playing a reduced schedule.
Martin's team trained hard over the summer and is back in form this season, playing with a renewed focus and intensity.
"You can see there's energy again," Martin said Monday. "There was very little energy last year. We were just a bunch of burnt-out guys."
The Edmonton skip won Olympic gold with Ben Hebert, Marc Kennedy and John Morris. The rink took parts of last season off to recharge and is off to a solid start this season at 12-2.
"This year you can tell that everybody — in their eyes — they're enjoying it, getting on the ice and playing," Martin said.
The veteran skip made a promotional stop at an east-end curling club Monday for the release of his new Kevin Martin Curling App. He'll return to Edmonton on Tuesday for a coaching assignment before heading to Portage la Prairie, Man., for this weekend's Canad Inns Prairie Classic event.
Martin said while he'd like to see a decent winning percentage this season, his main goal is to build up the team's skills and performance leading into the 2013 Olympic trials in Winnipeg.
"I would like to see us get stronger as the year goes on," he said. "And play really solid, consistent ... whether we win or not that doesn't matter because our goal is Sochi.
"What we win this year is insignificant but in order to win there, you've got to be getting better and better and better, trying to peak next year at the Olympic trials."
Martin made it to the semifinals at the Point Optical Classic in Saskatoon last month and followed it up with a win at the recent Westcoast Curling Classic in New Westminster, B.C.
The team will have a busy schedule this season. And Martin likes the hunger his teammates are showing early on.
"It's no different than a horse before a horse race," he said. "You can tell by the look of the horse if they're ready to go or not. You can tell that with an athlete too ... by the look in their eye and how they're acting, how they're walking, how they're moving and how they're eating pre-game. You can tell by all of that.
"You can tell that our team is ready to go again. We were not ready to go last year. You could tell, we were just not mentally sharp and you just have to be. Finally I can see that (look) again, which is good."
Martin already earned a coveted qualification spot at the Olympic trials by winning the Canada Cup last year.
Eight men's and women's rinks will battle for the Sochi spots at the trials — the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — from Dec. 1-8, 2013.
"We're trying to ramp up," Martin said. "And in an exact way."