Canada kicks off second half of Sochi Games with multi-medal performance
Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 02:30 pm
SOCHI, Russia - Canada kicked off the second half of the Sochi Olympics with its fourth multi-medal performance of the Games.
And it looks like there's more hardware on the way.
Dominique Maltais took silver in women's snowboard cross Sunday, becoming the first athlete to win two Olympic medals in the event. She won bronze at the 2006 Turin Games.
Also on the slopes, Jan Hudec won bronze in the men's super-G. The medal ended Canada's 20-year podium drought in alpine skiing.
The medals came after a bit of a lull for Canada, which started off the Games with a bang but slowed down with two silvers and a bronze over four days of competition heading into Sunday's action. Canada now has 14 total medals (four gold, six silver, four bronze) and is still in the mix to attain its stated goal of winning the most medals in Sochi.
Canada is tied with Norway for fourth in the overall medal standings, behind the Netherlands (17 medals) and Russia and the United States (16). Germany leads the gold-medal standings with seven.
Going forward, ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are poised to win another medal. The reigning Olympic champions enter Monday's free skate in second place, behind rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States.
Canada is also on the cusp of the podium in two-man bobsled, with Justin Kripps and Bryan Barnett in fourth after two runs.
And both of Canada's curling teams qualified for the playoffs. Jennifer Jones is guaranteed to finish atop the women's standings with a win over the United States, and Brad Jacobs locked up second in the men's standings with a thrilling extra-end win over China.
Meanwhile, it was a bumpy end to the round robin for Team Canada, which needed an overtime goal from Drew Doughty to defeat Finland 2-1. That means Canada qualified for the quarter-finals in third spot and will face the winner of a qualification-round match between Latvia and Switzerland. The stingy Swiss pose a real threat for a Canadian team trying to win its first medal on international-sized ice.
In Monday's medal competition, Maltais survived a wild semifinal run and came through with a strong effort in the final to sin silver. The result was vindication for Maltais, who had a disappointing showing at the Vancouver Olympics.
"I decided to have revenge and show the world how good I can be and how fast I can be on the course," said the 33-year-old rider from Petite-Riviere-St-Francois, Que. "The last four years I have been improving myself and focusing to get faster on that kind of track just for today.
"I made it happen today so I'm really, really happy."
Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic was dominant in her heats and never trailed in the final. France's Chloe Trespeuch was third.
Defending champion Maelle Ricker of West Vancouver, B.C., went down in the quarter-finals after trying to make a pass on a turn. She did well just to make it to Sochi after undergoing wrist surgery a few weeks ago.
Maltais won bronze at the Turin Games when snowboard cross made its Olympic debut. She was a contender heading into Vancouver but a training crash left her battered and she didn't advance to the elimination heats.
She completely changed her routine after the experience with one goal in mind — redemption in Sochi.
"The last four years have been like I was on a mission," she said. "Everything I was touching, everything I was eating was to be a better athlete, to get faster on that course."
Hudec had to overcome much more recent problems to get his medal.
He suffered a herniated a disc in his lower back in mid-January. It was so painful that he struggled to walk and under normal circumstances, he would have shut himself down. But he knew he needed to get some runs in so he entered a pair of World Cups right before Sochi.
"I'm over the moon considering where I came from in the last five weeks," said Hudec. "It's nothing short of a miracle to be here, to be able to even perform at this level. I can't be thankful enough."
Hudec finished tied with American star Bode Miller in one minute 18.67 seconds. Kjetil Jansrud won the fourth straight Olympic super-G gold medal for Norway in 1:18.14 and Andrew Weibrecht of the United States was second, 0.30 seconds behind.
For Hudec, who has battled a series of injuries throughout his career, it was meant to be.
"No matter how crappy it got the last five weeks, I never let that site (of racing in Sochi) leave my mind," he said. "That gave me the confidence and the strength to be mentally prepared for the race."
Winnipeg's Jones improved to 8-0 with a 7-6 extra-end win over the United States, while Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won six straight by beating the U.S. 8-6 and then China 9-8 in an extra end.
Jones could have put the game away in the 10th end, but she missed her last shot and the U.S. stole one to force an extra end.
But Jones, who has curled exceptionally in Sochi, didn't miss on her winning draw for a point in the 11th.
"The quality and calibre of teams here is so tremendous that you're going to have battles out there, but we're finding a way to be in control of our own game and holding our fate in our own hands," Jones said.
On the men's side, Jacobs had the hammer in the extra end against China and drew his last stone to the button for one that sealed the win and semifinal berth for Canada.
That gave Jacobs six wins in a row and made his shaky start to the tournament a distant memory. The gold-medal favourites opened with an unconvincing win over lowly Germany before suffering back-to-back losses to Sweden and Switzerland.
"When you come to an Olympics, there is so much hype about gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, especially with the Canadian men's curling team because it is so successful," Jacobs said.
"We kind of let that get to us a little bit so we had to refocus, regroup ... and stay in the present. Forget about the gold medal. It was all mental. It's character-building."
Canada's defending Olympic ice dance champions finished second in the short dance after laying down a virtually flawless performance.
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., scored 76.33 to finish 2.56 points behind American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White. It was far better then their performance in the team event, where they didn't even appear to be in the same league as their American rivals.
"That was more like it. I said to Tessa right after we finished, 'That's the skate we'd been having in practice,' and to do that on this stage, it felt pretty good," Moir said.