There are two types of surprise at an Olympic Games that make this place especially compelling.
Reaching an unexpected peak in the Olympic window, like a podium-out-of-nowhere or a massive career-best. There is also the sickening version that pulls utter despair from sport’s most elite, replacing years of training with an infamous moment.
After six days in Sochi, Canada has had a few of each. On Thursday, and unfortunately for the country, there were extras of the uncomfortable type.
In the evening, a week of almost-there luge results was added to at the Sanki Sliding Centre. After two 4th place finishes in the women’s and doubles event, the story of a bounce-back team relay medal would have made a pleasant ending. But the happy headline didn’t come. Canada’s World Cup no.2 ranked sleds were, of course, fourth. Out of the medals.
“It is brutal. It sucks and is not easy. It is even harder for both of my teammates. We wanted this so bad,” said team leader Sam Edney. A team official said the group was ‘gutted’. No one just throws that word around. They must be devastated, still, it is program that has come a long way. But silver lining isn’t a medal.
During the afternoon at Iceberg, the short track 5000m relay lost their chance to repeat as Olympic Champions. In their semi François Hamelin fell, and the team couldn’t catch up. Michael Gilday said, “We had high hopes for this relay – I mean we are the reigning World and Olympic champions. We wanted to win.”
Later, Christine Nesbitt fought to hold it together in a CBC interview, explaining how she faded in her 1000m. With all the optimism athletes typically have, the fall is harder when the results are final.
Canada finishes day six without a medal, and for the first time in these Games. After a few pockets of elation, and steady performances, today is a more stark reminder that at the Olympic Games, all things are possible. For better or for worse.
There was smoke however. Patrick Chan turned in a solid short program. He’ll need a special performance tomorrow, but this is the Olympic Games, and medals are won only with the athlete’s best. Jennifer Jones and her Winnipeg rink remained unbeaten. Three Canadians cruised through to quarters in the short track 1000m. And Canada opened the Olympic men’s hockey tournament with a 3-1 win over Norway.