Golden day for the girls
SOCHI, Russia — Canada is starting to look golden again at the Sochi Olympics.
A spirited comeback from the women’s hockey team and a win by the women’s curling foursome gave Canada its first double-gold day of the Games on Thursday.
Canada has three gold medals in the last two days of competition after two-time Olympic women’s bobsled champions Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse ended an eight-day gold drought on Wednesday.
All three of the recent gold medals have come in dramatic fashion, but perhaps none more so than the stunning comeback by Canada’s women’s hockey team in a 3-2 overtime win over the archrival United States.
Canada was trailing 2-0 late in the third period when Brianne Jenner gave Canada life with a goal with less than four minutes remaining.
Then with goaltender Shannon Szabados pulled for an extra attacker, Marie-Philip Poulin scored in the final minute to tie the game. Poulin provided more heroics in overtime with a power-play goal to give Canada its fourth straight Olympic title in women’s hockey.
“I don’t know what to say, it’s so surreal and a dream come true again,” Poulin said after the game.
Jennifer Jones and her Winnipeg rink were in tough in their women’s curling final too. Canada led by just one point in the ninth end with Sweden holding down the hammer. But Jones, who went 11-0 in the tournament, was able to steal two and finish off a tense 6-3 win.
It’s Canada’s first women’s curling title since Sandra Schmirler won gold at the 1998 Nagano Games.
“We’re Olympic gold medallists,” said a jubilant Jones, who skips a team featuring third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen. “It’s something that you dream of for your entire life. It’s what every athlete wants to do and we did it today.
“And we did it in a way where we played so consistent all week. On the biggest stage for sport, we came out and played our best. And I’m so so proud of us.”
Canada now has 20 medals overall (seven gold, nine silver, four bronze), good for fifth in the standings.
The United States leads with 25, followed by host Russia (23), the Netherlands (22) and Norway (21).
Canada’s stated goal was to win the most medals out of any country at the Sochi Games, a goal that seems unlikely with only three days of competition remaining. But with seven gold medals, Canada is just one behind the U.S. and Germany and three behind Norway. Canada won the most gold medals at the Vancouver Games — a record for a Winter Olympics with 14 — and with some luck could take that title again in Sochi.
Canada missed out on chances to add to its medal count when Brady Leman finished fourth in the men’s skicross and fellow Calgarian Roz Groenewoud, who recently had double knee surgery, finished seventh in the women’s ski halfpipe.
Leman crashed in the skicross final trying to catch the three French skiers who swept the podium.
“I was in disbelief, almost, when I was lying there,” he said. “But it’s part of skicross.”
The women have been getting it done for Canada lately, so the men will have to step it up Friday. Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie rink can make it a curling sweep for Canada when they face Great Britain in the men’s final, while Team Canada will take on a dangerous American team in the men’s hockey semifinals.
The Americans were plenty dangerous in the women’s final. Not only did they carry a 2-0 lead into the final minutes of the game, they came a golapost away from scoring an empty-netter to clinch gold. But Kelli Stack’s attempt at the empty cage missed, and that would come back to haunt them.
Poulin scored with 54.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Then star Canadian forward and Opening Ceremonies flag-bearer Hayley Wickenheiser was hauled down on a breakaway in overtime, and Poulin scored on the ensuing power play.
“She just got the puck and put the puck in the net tonight — and that’s all we needed,” Wickenheiser said of Poulin’s winning goal.
In the women’s curling final, Jones had no idea what the winning shot looked like. She had already pretty much wrapped up the gold medal one end earlier.
Canadians broke up a scrappy, error-strewn final by stealing two points in the ninth end when Maria Prytz, throwing Sweden’s final rock, was short with a draw and bumped another of her rocks away from the button.
Instead of potentially being down 5-4 with one end to play, Canada was up 6-3. The last end was a formality, with the Canadians playing takeout after takeout.
Jones was already jumping for joy when her last rock skittered down the ice.
The performance will trigger debate of whether Jones belongs in the women’s curling pantheon as one of the greatest skips of all time.
“I would completely, 100 per cent agree ... Probably one of the best skips to ever play the game,” said the 38-year-old Officer, who has been at Jones’ curling side for 20 years.
“Best in the world,” echoes the 25-year-old Lawes. “She’s an amazing, amazing talent in our sport. And as a person, she’s an amazing human being. I’ve never met anyone kinder.”