Girl Power: Women athletes lead Canada to best showing at Winter Games

Canadian women stepped up at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Friday, securing the country its best showing at a Winter Games.

Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., and Brittany Phelan of Mont-Tremblant, Que., started the day with gold and silver, respectively, in the women’s skicross final. Less than three hours later, Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., took bronze in women’s figure skating for Canada’s 27th medal — one more than the 26 it earned in Vancouver in 2010.

Osmond, all smiles after her performance, wasn’t aware of the significance of her bronze.

“I did not know that, but that is very exciting,” she said.

Skate Canada’s high performance director Mike Slipchuk was keeping track of the medal tally, however.

“That was in the back of my mind when I saw the two skicross medals today,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, we’re the first gold of the Games (the team figure skating event) and we can be the first ones to put us over to 27.”

Serwa’s gold was the 10th first-place finish for Canada in Pyeongchang. It was also her second Olympic medal after taking silver in Sochi four years ago.

“Our skis were rockets today,” the 28-year-old Serwa said.

“I had a plan and executed it, and was so fired up. And to be there with my teammate and best friend Britt too.”

Phelan called the 1-2 Canadian finish “absolutely amazing.”

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” she said. ”To finish second behind my best friend, it’s like a dream come true.”

The day didn’t start well for Canada on the skicross course, though. Sochi gold medallist Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., was eliminated after falling in the opening heat at Phoenix Park while India Sherret of Cranbrook, B.C., was also eliminated after crashing into a roller.

The 21-year-old Sherrett had to be taken off on a sled. She was in stable condition and was taken to hospital for tests.

Friday’s race was Thompson’s first competitive event since she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament during a training run in October that forced her to sit out the World Cup season.

Her comeback bid appeared to be on track after she led the 24-skier field in the seeding round on Thursday.

“I’m quite disappointed with how that race went, especially having won seeding yesterday,” Thompson said. “But I’m really proud that I was able to race here and to compete for Canada, so that was an accomplishment unto itself.”

On the ice, Osmond scored 152.15 in her long program to music from “Black Swan” for a combined score of 231.02. The 22-year-old, who almost quit skating after breaking her leg in a training accident in 2014, nailed her long program with seven triples jumps. Her only mishap was a slight bobble on a triple Lutz.

Russia’s Alina Zagitova, just 15 years old, scored a combined 239.57 to capture gold. Teammate and reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva won silver with 238.26 points.

In the moments after her medal-winning skate, Osmond thought of the gruesome broken leg that almost drove her out of the sport, and she was so thankful that it happened.

“It feels like forever ago,” Osmond said. “To think that I almost hung up my skates then and called it quits, it’s amazing.

“But I don’t think I would have been able to perform the way I did today without that injury. I re-grouped and almost became a new person afterwards. I had to mature. I had to refocus on how to stay on the ice and feel strong. And I don’t think I would have been able to perform this choreography as good as I could without that experience.”

Dressed in black, her hair pulled up in a tight ballerina bun — think Natalie Portman’s character ”Nina” — Osmond knelt on the ice afterward, hands on knees, grinning to herself.

“When I hit my ending position, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to enjoy every minute of it,” Osmond said.

It was a disastrous day for Gabrielle Daleman, who was seventh after the short program. The 20-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., fell three times and was deducted 4.00 points.

A day after Canada’s disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the United States in the women’s hockey final, Canadian defenceman Jocelyne Larocque said she regrets taking off her silver medal after it was placed around her neck.

Larocque issued a statement through Hockey Canada apologizing to the IOC, International Ice Hockey Federation, the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Hockey Canada and her teammates and fans.

“I’m proud of our team, and proud to be counted among the Canadian athletes who have won medals at these Games,” Larocque said. “Being on the podium at the world’s biggest sporting event is a great achievement and one that I’m thankful I was able to experience with my teammates.”

Larocque removed the medal as soon as it was placed around her neck. The image was captured on television and then shared widely on social media.

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