Sunday, February 9, 2014

Triumph and heartbreak for Canadians from first two days in Sochi

By on Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 3:02 PM

click to enlarge Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe celebrate their medal finishes in the women's moguls final alongside U.S. athlete Hannah Kearney on Day 1. Canada has four medals through the first two days in Sochi, but it wouldn't have been a stretch to expect one or two more by now. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CANADIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
  • Photo courtesy of Canadian Olympic Committee
  • Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe celebrate their medal finishes in the women's moguls final alongside U.S. athlete Hannah Kearney on Day 1. Canada has four medals through the first two days in Sochi, but it wouldn't have been a stretch to expect one or two more by now.

There are a couple of ways you can look at Canada’s first two days of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

On one hand, Canada had never taken gold, silver and bronze on Day 1 before, so it was a pretty exceptional start to the Games for the team wearing red and white. Canada is sitting fourth in the medal count after two days, and with four medals total, is tied for second in overall podiums with the host Russians, the U.S. and the Netherlands.

But it could have also been so much more.

Watching Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe go one-two in the women’s moguls final was something special. Though the Canadian Olympic Committee was probably anticipating two medals from the event was a strong possibility, for them to be gold and silver was a bonus.

Meanwhile, Mark McMorris fought through it all — a broken rib, judges that didn’t seem to be on his side and a tense semifinal — to put Canada on the board with a bronze as its first medal. With all of the attention and pressure on the Saskatchewan rider to deliver a gold from the first-ever Olympic men’s slopestyle contest, it was nice to see how thrilled he was with third place, rather than thinking about what else he could have done to move up a spot or two on the podium.

At the same time, for Canada to take just a single bronze from the men’s and women’s slopestyle competitions combined was less than what the team would have expected. Things just didn’t work out for Sebastien Toutant or Maxence Parrot on the men’s side, while Courtenay’s Spencer O’Brien came up short in her bid for the women’s podium. O’Brien had to touch down on her landing off the second jump on both of her finals runs, scrubbing too much speed to take the last kicker each time, leaving herself out of the medals discussion in the process.

Sam Edney’s 11th-place finish in men’s luge was respectable, but also not what he would have been hoping on. The three-time Olympian felt he had a chance to push for the podium at the Sanki Sliding Center, but left himself too far behind on Day 1 to challenge the top guys on Day 2. For Edney, having the team event to focus on later this week should make his individual result easier to put behind him.

Finally, the men’s alpine team’s best chance to reach the podium was likely in this morning’s downhill, but none of the four Canadian Cowboys in the field were in the hunt, with Erik Guay’s 10th-place finish being the team’s top result. Ben Thomsen placed 19th, Jan Hudec was 21st and Manuel Osborne-Paradis was 25th, making it a disappointing day all around.

Four medals through the first two days of competition are a strong start, but COC brass were probably thinking seven podium results by now wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility.

But that’s what competition is for, and why we all tune in to watch, isn’t it? Predicitions and projections are all well and good, but ultimately, everything is decided on the field of play.

Alpine experts would never have predicted the men’s downhill podium we got today — not that Matthias Mayer, Christof Innerhofer or Kjetil Jansrud are unworthy of an Olympic medal, but guys like Guay, Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal being shut out came as a bit of a shock.

The outcomes of so many Winter Olympic events, particularly some of the new freestyle ski and snowboard disciplines, are extremely difficult to predict. There will always be favourites and underdogs, but all Canadian fans can do is hope their horses in the race have their best stuff on the day the medals are handed out.

Having said all that, the men’s moguls finals come up on Monday, and another one-two Canadian finish appears to be in the cards if Mikael Kingsbury and Alex Bilodeau ski as they have been all season. Alex Gough begins her women’s luge race in search of Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal in the sport, and Marie-Michele Gagnon will ski the women’s super combined, having won the most recent World Cup race in the discipline just last month.

The rest of Team Canada will be hoping they can keep the medal momentum going. 

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