SOCHI, Russia — The silver streak is over, thanks to Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse.
The reigning Olympic women’s bobsled champions retained their title Wednesday and gave Canada its first gold medal since Day 5 of the Sochi Games.
It appeared Humphries and Moyse, the dominant duo on the World Cup circuit, might be forced to settle for yet another Canadian silver. But despite trailing Americans Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams with two runs to go, the Canadians reached the top of the podium with a consistency that their rivals couldn’t match.
“Winning gold is amazing, but walking away satisfied is better,” Calgary native Humphries said. “After the third run I knew that if we did the business we could be on top.”
The gold medal was the first for Canada in over a week. Dara Howell gave the country its fourth gold of the Games last Tuesday, but Canada hadn’t topped the podium since. The medals continued to come in, however, with Canada winning six silver and two bronze during the golden drought.
The bobsled gold was Canada’s only medal at Day 13 of the Olympics, but both curling foursomes ensured more hardware will be on the way. Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones beat Great Britain 6-4 in the women’s semifinal, while Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., downed China 10-6 in the men’s semifinal.
And Canada also moved closer to defending its gold in men’s hockey, though it was far from easy. Canada had to hang on for a nail-biting 2-1 win over Latvia in a quarter-final that was expected to be a blowout.
At least Team Canada did better than the host Russians, who bowed out of the hockey tournament after a shocking 3-1 quarter-final loss to Finland.
Canada was in fifth in the overall medal standings with 18 (five gold, nine silver, four bronze). The United States leads with 23 medals, followed by host Russia and the Netherlands with 22 each. Norway, which has a leading nine gold medals, is in fourth with 20 overall.
Canada will have to perform exceptionally over the final five days of competition to have a shot at its goal of winning the most overall medals in Sochi, but Humphries and Moyse kept the country in the hunt.
While a medal was all but assured for Canada entering the final two runs, a gold was in serious doubt. Humphries and Moyse trailed Meyers and Williams by .23 seconds entering the final two runs.
While a quarter second is a comfortable lead by bobsled standards, Moyse thought there was still a chance to defend the gold.
“We said last night anything can happen at the Olympic Games,” said Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I.
“You gave to believe anything is possible. Even the last two days we knew where we stood but we couldn’t stop believing because anything was possible.”
Humphries and Moyse were consistently fast on their final two runs, while the Americans struggled with control. In the end the USA-1 sled came up short on its final run, giving Canada the win by a tenth of a second.
“I had no idea how close I was in the last run,” Humphries said. “Heather did and said we closed the gap. I just gave it all we had and wanted one more clean run and see what happens. To get the gold and complete the job is awesome.”
Awesome is also the word many hockey fans in Canada are using to describe Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. Hardly a household name toiling in the AHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect proved, at least for one night, he could hang with the NHL’s best.
Gudlevskis made 55 saves against the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry as Latvia gave Canada all it could handle in their men’s hockey quarter-final. A third-period power-play goal on a booming Shea Weber slapshot was just enough to send Canada into a semifinal against the United States.
“It can get to you,” Canadian forward Patrick Marleau said Canada’s struggles to beat Gudlevskis.
The Americans had little trouble scoring in their semifinal, beating the Czech Republic 5-2.
Team Canada had some company in the area of tense games. On the curling ice, Jones needed to make a key shot in the final end against world champion Great Britain in order to move on to the final.
Jones showed why she’s one of the best under pressure, drawing to the four-foot against three British counters to secure the win.
She improved to 10-0 in Sochi, with only Swedish skip Margaretha Sigfridsson in the way of a perfect Olympic run. The women’s final is Thursday.
“It’s crazy to think that we’re going to be on that podium, I’m not going to lie,” Jones said. “It was an emotional win.
“We’ve dreamed of this since we were little girls … We’re going to be on that podium no matter what. Nobody can ever take that away from us. It’s pretty exciting and something we’re going to celebrate, but right now we’re focused on trying to play well (Thursday).”
Jacobs blew a tight game against China open with three in the ninth end. After a rough start in Sochi, the Canadian champion will face Great Britain on Friday with a second straight Olympic gold medal on the line.
“To get another medal for all of Team Canada is a great feeling, but at the same time, we want to come out and we want to get that gold,” Jacobs said.