Canadian heavy medal haul

It was a heavy medal day for Canada at the Paralympics Thursday with alpine skier Lauren Woolstencroft earning her third gold of the Games with a victory in the downhill while Brian McKeever picked up his second win in cross-country.

Lauren Woolstencroft skied to her third gold medal of the 2010 Paralympic games Thursday

Lauren Woolstencroft skied to her third gold medal of the 2010 Paralympic games Thursday

WHISTLER, B.C. — It was a heavy medal day for Canada at the Paralympics Thursday with alpine skier Lauren Woolstencroft earning her third gold of the Games with a victory in the downhill while Brian McKeever picked up his second win in cross-country.

Viviane Forest added to the total by winning the women’s downhill for the visually impaired while Colette Bourgonje won a bronze in the women’s five-kilometre sitting cross-country race.

The joy on the snow was balanced by sorrow on ice when Canada’s sledge hockey team was upset 3-1 by Japan in a semifinal game played in Vancouver.

The best the sledge hockey team can do now is bronze. The loss ends the chances of a gold medal sweep after the men and women won their respective titles at the Olympics last month.

The four medals Thursday made it one of the country’s best days ever at a Winter Paralympics and increased Canada’s gold count to six, surpassing the five won in Turin four years ago.

It also ties the six gold medals won at the 2002 Salt Lake Paralympics.

Overall, Canada has 12 medals (six gold, three silver and three bronze). Canada twice has won 15 medals at a Paralympics, in 2002 and 1998 in Nagano.

Woolstencroft’s three gold is the most any Canadian has won at a single Winter Paralympics. It’s also the first time the 28-year-old from North Vancouver has won the Paralympic standing downhill.

“It’s just awesome,” said Woolstencroft, who also won the slalom and giant-slalom races. “I don’t know if it’s fully set in yet.

“I’m super happy I brought my best game here. I think it speaks to how strong our team is. How ready we were.”

Woolstencroft, who was born without legs below the knee and no left arm below the elbow, was timed in one minute, 25.54 seconds. Her eight medals in three Paralympics is the most of any Canadian skier.

McKeever, who races with his brother Robin as a guide, won the 10-kilometre classic race, with a time of 26:01.6.

More of a distance specialist, he battled in the shorter race.

“It was hard,” said Brian McKeever. “We were fighting a lot out there. I wasn’t totally comfortable with the pace for that distance.”

McKeever won gold in the 20-kilometre race Monday.

It was another gutsy performance by Forest, who won her third medal of the Paralympics skiing with a badly pulled groin.

“I was having some tears in the gondola this morning, not sure if I would be able to do it,” said the 30-year-old who lives in Edmonton. “It was a bit crazy but I found the strength somewhere. I did fight a lot against gravity. That is how you win at skiing. You have to push and give it all. It’s always on the edge.”

Forest won a silver in the slalom and a bronze in giant slalom. She also has won two gold medals competing in goalball in the summer Paralympics.

Bourgonje, 48, of Saskatoon, picked up her second medal of the Games to go with a silver she won in the 10-kilometre race.

A couple of near misses cost Canada more podium finishes.