SOCHI, Russia — Canada is still in the mix for the most overall medals at the Sochi Olympics after capturing a pair of silvers on Tuesday, but the leaders may be starting to pull away.
Canada’s team has a goal of winning the most medals in Sochi, and silvers from halfpipe skier Mike Riddle and the women’s short-track relay team helped keep the leading Dutch and American teams in sight.
But time may be running out, with just five days of competition left. Like Canada, the U.S. will win a medal in women’s hockey, and will likely at least match the Canadian team in men’s hockey and women’s bobsled.
The Netherlands has dominated in long-track speedskating, and with three more medal events to go are likely to add to their total.
Canada could make up a couple of medals in curling, where the men and women’s teams will compete in today’s semifinals.
Neither the Dutch nor the Americans are factors in those events.
Canada can also move closer to a men’s hockey medal when they play 11th-ranked Latvia in today’s quarter-finals. Latvia shocked Switzerland 3-1 Tuesday to set up a favourable matchup for the defending-champion Canadians.
Canada has 17 medals (four gold, nine silver, four bronze) through Day 12 of the Games, good for fifth place. The Netherlands and the U.S. each have 20, while host Russia has 19 and Norway 18.
Germany leads the gold-medal table with eight.
Riddle’s silver increased Canada’s medal count in freestyle skiing to an Olympic-best seven (three gold, three silver, one bronze).
The native of Sherwood Park, overcame wet and snowy conditions at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to score 90.60 points on his final run. That was bettered only by the 92 scored by David Wise of the United States.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Riddle. “I put down a good run in what were difficult conditions. I knew I had a chance.”
Riddle said he’d never done the combination that won him the medal — back-to-back double cork 1260s.
“I decided it was a good time to do it for the first time,” he said.
Ski halfpipe is making its Olympic debut in Sochi, thanks in part to the efforts of Canada’s Sarah Burke, who died in a training accident in 2012.
“I don’t think we would be here without her,” said Riddle.
“Ski halfpipe has got to where it is because of her.”
While Canada’s freestyle ski team has exceeded expectations in Sochi, its short-track speedskating team has been a disappointment.
The women’s 3,000-metre relay team won just the second short-track medal for Canada with Marie-Eve Drolet of Chicoutimi, Que., Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., Valerie Maltais of Le Baie, Que., Marianne St-Gelais of St. Felicien, Que., and Jessica Gregg of Edmonton finishing second behind South Korea.
Silver seems to be Canada’s destiny lately, with the women being bumped up from third to second place after China was disqualified for not clearing the track fast enough after passing the baton.
It was a welcome result for Canada’s team, which seemed poised for a medal haul after Charles Hamelin won gold in the men’s 1,500 metres early on but has suffered bad luck since.
“The medal helps take away some of the pain,” St-Gelais said.
The result came after Hamelin fell in qualifying in the men’s 500, an event in which he was the defending champion.
“I don’t know what happened. I could feel my skate give out a little bit,” said Hamelin. “It’s like the ice was breaking under my blades just then, but everything up until that moment was really smooth.
“Short track can be a cruel sport. It doesn’t take much to make a person fall.”
Canada may yet win another medal in short-track, as Maltais advanced out of the heats of the women’s 1,000 metres with an Olympic-record time of one minute 28.771 seconds.
Canada is also poised for a medal in women’s bobsled, with Calgary’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., sitting in second place after two runs.
The defending Olympic champions are solidly in medal contention, though they have a lot to do in Wednesday’s final two runs as they trail the American sled of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams by 0.23 seconds.
“We don’t really look at times so I don’t even know how big the gap is,” Humphries said. “And we don’t want to know.
“Heather and I go in and focus on ourselves. I have no idea how anyone else did, how their runs were. We stick to us.”
“We just try to have fun,” she added. “Knowing where other people are just complicates that.”