It’s a good thing Wednesday brings a sense of hope for Canadian Olympians. They could use the change in fortune.
Instead of faster, higher, stronger, most of Tuesday’s offerings were cruel, hurtful, luckless. Simon Whitfield never got to finish his final Olympic triathlon. He crashed. Tara Whitten was a leg-strong candidate to win a medal in cycling’s omnium event. She omniumed to fourth. The Canadian women’s basketball team took on its U.S. rival only to be slammed by a score of 91-48.
There have been strange forces at work at these Games, forces that have seen triathlete Paula Findlay struggle with a foot injury and finish last, nine of 11 Canadian sailors fail to make finals and even a horse (belonging to equestrian Tiffany Foster) be disqualified due to a sore hoof. But Tuesday’s blues took the angst to a new level, coming so soon after the Canadian soccer team had its heart ripped out by a 4-3 extra-time loss Monday evening in Manchester.
A questionable referee’s call contributed to the U.S. scoring the tying goal in the 81st minute of play. Captain Christine Sinclair had scored all three of Canada’s goals. Canadians at home and abroad were saddened and outraged at the same time.
The Canadian Olympic Committee has been working extra minutes to remind media and onlookers alike that its projections for these Games remain unchanged: to finish among the top-12 nations, in terms of overall medals won, with 17 to 20. As of Tuesday night, that was precisely where the Canadian team ranked, with a newly minted bronze medal from Derek Drouin in the high jump.
What’s been missing, though, are more gold-medal moments. Trampolinist Rosie MacLennan has the homeland’s lone gold and Whitten was supposed to add to that count. The possibility of a turnaround heightens with Wednesday’s scheduling. Kayaker Adam Van Koeverden and canoeist Mark Oldershaw have podium potential as do women wrestlers Carol Huynh and Martine Dugrenier.
And there are others to follow over the final days. Catherine Pendrel goes in mountain biking, Tonya Verbeek in wrestling and Karine Sergeri in taekwondo.
They may be the ones to help Canadians forget how Tuesday went down.
The star of the 2000 Olympic triathlon was biking along through Hyde Park when he hit a speed bump, clipped the wheels of another rider and went down in a heap. It left him with scraped knees, shins and collarbone. But the disappointment of not finishing the race was equally painful. “That’s not how I pictured the script ending,” he said.
Whitten had been virtually everyone’s pick to win the omnium, a part-endurance, part-sprint, two-day event. She started slowly, rose to third, dropped to fourth and was unabashedly disappointed with her effort. Earlier in the Games, she helped guide Canada to a bronze medal in team pursuit. “I gave everything I had,” she explained, “and it just wasn’t enough.”
Just getting to the three-metre springboard final was a majestic accomplishment for Alexandre Despatie. Six weeks ago, he nearly lobotomized himself when he struck his head on a diving board. Having overcome that, he deserved some kind of medal here. He didn’t get it. He finished 11th.
The Canadian pairs’ team of Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon and Elise Marcotte finished fourth, never a good place to end up, and yet fourth was Canada’s best showing in duet in 20 years. “We just did two solid performances in a row and this will give confidence to everyone for the team event,” said Boudreau-Gagnon.
Let’s be honest: the Canadian women’s team was never going to beat the U.S. The goal was always to play hard, keep the game interesting and not be embarrassed. The Canadians did all three, and still lost by 43 points. It probably didn’t help Canada that LeBron James was in attendance to cheer on his fellow Americans.