PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — Coming up short at an Olympic Games, under the pressure of high expectations, can be hard on any athlete. Rachel Homan knows that disappointment, and so does Brady Leman.
While Homan finished her run at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games out of the women’s curling playoffs, Leman showed that Olympic redemption can come to athletes who persevere. The Calgary freestyle skier won gold in the men’s skicross at the Pyeongchang Games on Wednesday, making up for a disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
After the victory, Leman admitted that thoughts of that Sochi result occasionally crept in before the race.
“Any time that would happen I would just remind myself, ‘Just be here in Korea now because Sochi doesn’t matter,’” Leman said. “I’m not going to change that I was fourth at the last Games.
“But I can stay focused on my race and what I needed to do to be successful to make sure that I wasn’t fourth at another one.”
Canada also secured a bobsled bronze medal as Calgary’s Kaillie Humphries and Phylicia George of Markham. Ont., were third in women’s competition. Humphries, a gold medallist in the event in 2010 and 2014, picked up her third medal to become Canada’s most decorated Olympic bobsledder.
Also Wednesday, Team Canada advanced to the men’s hockey semifinals with a 1-0 win over Finland. Canada will face Germany in Friday’s semifinals after the Germans shocked Sweden 4-3 in overtime in quarterfinal play.
And Calgary’s Kevin Koe overcame a few shaky performances to advance to the men’s curling playoffs with an 8-3 win over Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne.
Canada sat third in the medal standings after 12 days of medal competition in Pyeongchang with 21 (Nine gold, five silver, seven bronze). Norway led with 33 (13 gold), followed by Germany with 24 (12 gold).
In skicross action, Leman held off a late charge by Bischofberger to win Olympic gold for the first time.
“I had to just let go of everything and just race,” Leman said. “Turn the brain off a little bit in the race, which seemed to work out I guess.”
Toronto’s Kevin Drury was last in the four-man big final after crashing with Sergey Ridzik, an Olympic Athlete from Russia. Ridzik recovered enough to finish behind Leman and Switzerland’s Marc Bischofberger.
Drury was seemingly fine after the crash, shouting encouragement to Leman before the podium ceremony. David Duncan of London, Ont., was fourth in the small final, putting him eighth overall.
Montreal’s Chris Del Bosco crashed in an earlier heat and was taken to hospital where he was conscious and stable. A spokesperson for Freestyle Canada told The Canadian Press that Del Bosco has a suspected pelvic injury.
The Canadian Olympic Committee is expected to provide an update on Thursday.
Humphries, the two-time defending Olympic gold medallist from 2010 and 2014, and George moved from fifth to third following the third run. But the Canadians couldn’t overtake either Germany’s Mariama Jamanka or American Elana Meyers Taylor on their final run and captured the bronze medal with an overtime time of three minutes 22.89 seconds.
Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz won gold in 3:22.45 while Meyers Taylor, who finished second behind Humphries in 2014, and Lauren Gibbs took second in 3:22.52.
“You know, we came out, pressure was on, we knew we had to perform,” Humphries said. ”Overall our pushes over these four heats were absolutely fantastic, which is a testament to how hard Phylicia has worked as an athlete.”
Edmonton’s Alysia Rissling and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I. — the brakeman for Humphries at the 2010 and 2014 Games — finished sixth in 3:23.63. Christine de Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta., and Melissa Lotholz of Barrhead, Alta., seventh in 3:23.89.
Homan is leaving the Olympics earlier than she’d hoped. Her rink’s fifth loss of the women’s round robin eliminated them from medal contention, the first time Canada has ever missed out on a medal in either men’s or women’s curling since the sports made its return to the Winter Olympics in 1998.
Homan’s team fell 6-5 to Britain’s Eve Muirhead in the morning draw. The Canadians needed to win it and their round-robin finale against Olympic Athletes from Russia to avoid elimination.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Homan, who finished with a 9-8 win over a team from Russia. “We wanted to try and qualify and make playoffs for Canada, but we gave it all we had. We never gave up. It’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s sport.”
South Korea, Sweden, Britain and Japan advanced to the playoffs.
Canada remained in contention on the men’s side as Koe finished second at 6-3 behind Sweden’s Niklas Edin (7-2). Koe faces American John Shuster, who defeated the Canadians in round-robin play, in Thursday’s semifinal.
In men’s hockey, Maxim Noreau registered the game’s lone goal early in the third period but the big development for Canada game in goal.
“I saw it from the bench. It had eyes,” Canada captain Chris Kelly said of Noreau’s shot. “A fantastic (faceoff) win by (O’Dell). That’s kind of what it takes. Just one play and that’s the difference.”
The Canadians lost starting netminder Ben Scrivens to an upper-body injury in the second. He gave way to Kevin Poulin at 4:17 of the period after being flattened by Finland’s Veli-Matti Savinainen, who was being checked on the play by Canadian Eric O’Dell.
Poulin was rock-steady in relief, stopping all 15 shots he faced after Scrivens opened by making six saves. The Canadians, devoid of NHL talent, are now just two wins away from an Olympic three-peat.
Elsewhere, snowboarders Mark McMorris and Max Parrot could earn more medals after qualifying for the men’s big air final.
McMorris, from Regina, was third in the second heat, scoring a 95.75 on his second run to qualify for Saturday’s final.
Parrot, from Bromont, Que., was the top qualifier in the first heat with a 92.50 run. Sebastien Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., also advanced with his 91.00-point performance.
McMorris is less than a year removed from a catastrophic backcountry snowboarding accident. He has already earned a bronze in men’s slopestyle at these Games behind Parrot, who took silver.
The top six performers from each 18-man heat advanced.
In figure skating, Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., was in third place following the women’s short program. Osmond scored 78.87 points, 4.05 behind leader Alina Zagitova.