A silver, a bronze and a scandal. The strong start for Canada continued at the London Games on Wednesday and included a boost from an unexpected place.
The women’s badminton competition — of all things — commanded the biggest headlines from Day 5 of the Games after eight athletes were sent home for throwing matches.
That put Canadians Alex Bruce and Michele Li back in the draw and the Toronto duo took advantage by beating an Australian team to advance to the semifinals. In less than three hours, they went from being completely out of the competition to having an opportunity to claim the country’s first-ever medal in badminton.
“We could never match a chance like that,” said Li.
The day also included a silver from the men’s eight rowing team and a bronze from swimmer Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C., in the 100-metre freestyle to bring the country’s medal total to six.
Four years ago in Beijing, Canada didn’t earn its first medal until the eighth day of competition.
The Canadian team has managed to steer clear of controversy or concern early in the London Games. Even the women’s badminton team wasn’t thrilled with the circumstances surrounding their re-entry into the competition — as the match-fixing scandal clearly delivered a black eye for the sport.
“We’re not excited that it happened,” said Bruce. “It sucks.”
The atmosphere was much lighter near Hampton Court Palace in south London, where Clara Hughes put the finishing touches on the most decorated career in Canadian Olympic history.
The 39-year-old, who lives in Glen Sutton, Que., finished fifth in the women’s time trial — falling just a little short of capturing a record seventh Olympic medal.
However, the cyclist-turned-speedskater-turned-cyclist walked away with her head held high. She’s the athlete ever to capture multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games, and she was thrilled at just having the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf in a sixth Olympics.
“I knew today, I knew in the last week and the last month that this was the last time I’ll have the chance to race the Olympics, so I’m really proud of what I did,” said Hughes. “I’m just really thankful that I got the opportunity to do this one last time, that I was good enough to represent Canada, and unfortunately wasn’t good enough to represent Canada on the podium.
“But I can be really proud of what I did.”