Scariest Canadian Olympic moments
Editor’s note: This article was first published in October 2018 and updated in October 2021.
Halloween is a spooky time with ghosts, goblins and witches wandering around neighbourhoods.
So what better day to look back at some of Team Canada’s scariest Olympic moments that had us all on the edge of our seats before ending up with a fun result, just like the candy earned from trick or treating.
Tokyo 2020 – Curing the Curse
With so many moments that kept the fans on the edge of their seats, it was difficult to choose just one match from the tournament. If the result – a historic gold medal for Team Canada – was a worthy ending to a Hollywood script, then the story of the tournament might be considered even more far-fetched.
The scares started in the opening match as goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé slipped after making a key save against Japan. Labbé had to leave the game but fortunately returned for the final match of the group stage.
Tension was also high in the quarterfinals as the game against Brazil remained 0-0 after extra time, leading to penalties. Christine Sinclair failed to score on Canada’s first shot, but Labbé made two consecutive saves on Brazil’s fourth and fifth shooters to give the Canadians the win.
In a rematch of the London 2012 semifinal where the United States defeated Canada in controversial fashion, the Canadians met their American rivals once again with a chance to exorcise their demons. In a match where neither team had a real chance at scoring, the Canadians snatched the victory on a penalty shot, awarded to Canada after video review. Captain Sinclair gave way to 23-year-old Jessie Fleming, who slotted the penalty – a passing-of-the-torch scene straight out of the movies.
With a win over the United States, Team Canada finally had the chance to reach the top of the Olympic podium, with only Sweden standing in their way. An Olympic final is always exciting, but at Tokyo 2020, we truly held our breath until the last minute. After 90 minutes the match was tied 1-1, forcing extra time. Neither team managed to score in the next half hour, meaning the gold would be determined in the shootout.
While Canada gained the advantage early in penalty kicks, three missed opportunities by the Canadian shooters gave Sweden the lead. However, after five shots on goal from both sides and heroic saves by Labbé, the two teams were back on a level playing field. The Canadian goalkeeper stopped Sweden’s sixth shooter, then Julia Grosso netted the winning shot to give Canada the gold medal.
Truly an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish!
PyeongChang 2018 – Golden Tie
In an eerie twist, the German and Canadian two-man bobsleigh teams both won gold medals in PyeongChang after finishing with exactly the same times, down to the hundredth of a second. Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz were in first place after the first three runs, but in the final run it was the Germans who had the fastest time. As Kripps and Kopacz slid down the track and their lead started slipping away, it looked for a moment like the gold was gone. Instead the result was the second ever tie for gold in Olympic bobsleigh history.
Rio 2016 – From Seventh to First
All eyes were on Penny Oleksiak as she took aim at what would be a record-setting medal in the 100m freestyle in Rio. But at the midway mark, she was way back in seventh place. However, a potential horror story became a fairy tale when she turned on her closing speed and ended up racing American Simone Manuel to the wall. After they touched, Oleksiak wouldn’t look at the results board, When she finally did, she saw what fans across the country had finally sorted out. She and Manuel had tied for the gold in Olympic record time.
Sochi 2014 – The Post That Made History
With less than five minutes left and holding a 2-0 lead in the gold medal game, it looked like the Americans would finally win another Olympic title in women’s hockey. After Brianne Jenner scored to make it a 2-1 game, Team Canada pulled goalie Shannon Szabados for an extra attacker. But while they pressed for the tying goal, the game was almost put out of reach when the Americans sent the puck towards the empty Canadian net. Luckily, there was a timely save by the goal post. Marie-Philip Poulin ended up scoring the equalizer and then the overtime winner to give Canada its fourth consecutive Olympic gold. And yes, the Sochi Goal Post does have its own page because it is that iconic.
Vancouver 2010 – Masked Man in the Fog
It’s a very foggy day in Vancouver and there is a dark figure sliding down the mountain. Who could it be? As the shadow comes closer, it soon becomes clear that it is not a predator but none other than Canada’s Jasey-Jay Anderson, in search of the first Olympic medal in his illustrious career. He overcomes a time deficit that would have been insurmountable for many to win the gold medal.
Vancouver 2010 – Third Period Threat
Team Canada had the men’s hockey gold medal in sight. A 2-1 lead with just 25 seconds to play. Then Zach Parise scores to bring Team USA into a tie. But rather than be haunted, Team Canada found its superhero in its superstar.
Turin 2006 – Petrifying Pole
Is there anything scarier to an athlete than equipment failure? Sara Renner experienced just that when she had a pole snap during her leg of the team sprint in Turin. Luckily Norwegian coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen quickly handed her a new one, and although it was about 12cm too long, it helped Renner maintain contact with the lead group until she could make the handoff to Beckie Scott.
Nagano 1998 – Tension on Ice
Canada’s rink skipped by Sandra Schmirler was trailing Great Britain 4-3 after seven ends in the semifinal of the first women’s Olympic curling tournament. A score of two in the eighth put Canada up 5-4 before the Brits tied it in the tenth. In the extra end, Schmirler’s draw on last rock provided plenty of drama as it inched just inside the closest British stone, putting Canada into the gold medal game, which they went on to win.
Albertville 1992 – Quarterfinal Quivers
What should have been an easy quarterfinal game for Canada against Germany was anything but. Canada was leading 3-2 when Germany tied it with 2:22 to go in the third period. The 10-minute overtime was scoreless, so the game went to a shootout. After Eric Lindros gave Canada the lead in the sudden death phase, it came down to goaltender Sean Burke to seal the victory. The puck squeaked through his pads but wobbled and came to a stop on the goal line. The upset averted, Canada would go on to win the silver medal.
Grenoble 1968 – Creepy Clock
After Nancy Greene had skied what looked like a perfect race, she turned to the electronic clock for her time, only to see that the numbers were still moving. She later recalled “My heart almost stopped. I thought, ‘I’ve just skied the race of my life and they missed my time.’” After a couple of seconds, the clock malfunction was fixed and her winning time was posted.