This was the kind of day it was for Canada at the Sochi Olympics: The defending gold medalists in the men’s short-track speed-skating team relay crashed in the semi-finals; the luge relay team missed the podium by a fraction of a second; and Canada failed to win a medal for the first time since the 2014 Winter Games officially began.
All that happened Thursday, a day of some highlights for Canadian athletes but not enough to stay atop the medal board where Norway (13 total) now ranks above the United States, the Netherlands (12), Russia (11) and both Canada and Germany, each with 10.
After enjoying a glorious start to the Sochi Games, Canada’s luck ran cold in two team events.
In its semi-final of short track’s 5,000 metres, Canada was up among the leaders until François Hamelin lost an edge and slid into the protective boards. Since Hamelin had fallen in a corner, he wasn’t close enough to tag in a teammate to take his place. By the time the Canadians were back at full force, they were too far behind to make it to the ‘A’ final.
“We had high hopes for this relay. I mean, we are the reigning world and Olympic champions,” team member Michael Gilday said. “Extremely disappointing, and it’s not the way we wanted the thing to turn out.”
Added to that disappointment was the fact it cost speed-skater Charles Hamelin his chance at becoming Canada’s most-decorated Olympian. Had he won medals in all four of his events in Sochi, Hamelin would have surpassed Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes, who each won six medals in their career.
Canada’s luge squad was considered a lively bet to finish in the top three, which would have been a historic first for the nation. The new team relay event combined the times of three disciplines – men’s and women’s singles and men’s doubles – and Canada, with its strong showings on the World Cup circuit, was considered a legitimate medal threat.
Instead, the Canadians ended up in fourth, missing the podium by a one-tenth of a second.
It marked the third day in a row Canada’s lugers had finished one step off the podium.
“I feel awful we didn’t get the job done,” luger Sam Edney told reporters.
Long-track speed-skater Christine Nesbitt felt awful, too. She finished ninth in the women’s 1,000 metres, the event she won four years ago in Vancouver.
Amid the gloom, there were some encouraging results for Canada, beginning with Patrick Chan.
The three-time world champion figure skater scored 97.52 points in the short program to sit in second place. It was a solid effort, yet well back of Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who threw down a world-record score of 101.45 in front of astonished onlookers.
The men’s long program goes Friday, and as Chan warned: “The long program can change a lot of things.”
As for the rest of the good news, Canadian curlers Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs each won Thursday. Jones is 5-0, Jacobs is 3-2 after losing his second and third games.
And the men’s hockey team won its first game of the Olympic tournament, taking a 3-1 final over a plucky Norway.
“If you look at the whole game, they competed like crazy,” Canada head coach Mike Babcock said of the Norwegian players. “Our power play wasn’t dangerous and we gave up a penalty kill goal. So we’ve got lots to work on.”
It was a familiar refrain for Canada as it looked forward to Friday, and a return to the podium.