SOCH, Russia — After riding the emotional high of winning gold, silver and bronze on the opening day of medal competition in Sochi, things cooled down a bit for Canada’s Olympic team on Sunday.
Canada entered the day with confidence after sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe capped Saturday’s competition with a bang, finishing first and second respectively in the women’s moguls. Snowboarder Mark McMorris added a bronze in men’s slopestyle.
But medal hopeful Spencer O’Brien couldn’t keep the momentum going. The 2013 world champion in women’s slopestyle snowboarding failed to duplicate her success in Sochi, botching landings halfway down the course in each run and finishing last in the 12-woman final.
A devastated O’Brien lamented she let Canada down.
“Sorry I’m just really disappointed right now,” she told reporters. “I had a really hard year coming back from some injuries. I was really happy to be riding the way I was here. I was just really excited to be a part of Team Canada. Just after watching Mark yesterday, I was really inspired to just try really hard to bring home a medal.
“I went for my hardest run and it didn’t work out today. So I’m really disappointed and really sad that I let Canada down.”
Several people took to social media to support O’Brien, including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.
“Snowboarder (at)spencerobrien feels the weight of Canada on her shoulders in Sochi. Spencer — feel our pride & respect,” Hadfield posted on his Twitter account.
Canada also came up short in alpine and cross-country skiing, where the men’s teams had outside medal chances.
Despite the missed opportunities, Canada is still in good shape overall. With Sunday’s silver medal in team figure skating, Canada enters Day 4 of the Sochi Games with four medals. Canada is tied for fourth in the medal standings with host Russia, and its four medals overall is second only to leader Norway (two gold, one silver, four bronze). Canada is ranked behind the Netherlands and the United States however as those countires have more gold medals.
They had three after the first two days of competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
And there’s legitimate potential for more hardware on Monday, with defending champion Alex Bilodeau and World Cup star Mikael Kingsbury competing in men’s moguls and Vancouver double-gold medallist Charles Hamelin taking part in the men’s 1,500-metre men’s short-track speedskating race.
Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, along with sister Maxime, who finished 12th in the women’s moguls, made the rounds on Sunday, and it didn’t take long to realize how much their lives had changed in the last 24 hours.
Journalists from around the world packed an emotional news conference with the sisters and their parents.
The reporters wanted to know just about everything about the siblings: How did the women get started in the sport? Who is the most competitive? Who is the tidiest? Who is the most studious?
“It’s true that it’s notable enough for three sisters to participate in the same event at the same Olympics — (but) it’s even more extraordinary that two sisters won the gold and silver,” said Adelaide de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, a journalist for Eurosport.
“They are bubbly, they are always smiling, they are young — it’s a nice story. Their parents are also part of this story … We want to get to know them.”
On the slopes, the mood was less upbeat. O’Brien appeared to lose her balance and leaned back on the snow midway through her first run before slipping out again on her second run. The Courtenay, B.C., native cut both runs short and took a slow ride down the side of the course instead of showing the high-flying spins and tricks she had planned.
“I felt great actually,” she said. “That’s why it was kind of like a sledgehammer a little bit.”
Canada returned to the podium with a silver in the first ever Olympic team figure skating event, though there was little drama to end the eight-team competition.
With host Russia entering the day with a daunting lead over Canada, and the United States trailing the Canadians by an even larger gap, the medal placings were all but cemented when Kevin Reynolds took to the ice for the men’s free skate.
Still, the skater from Coquitlam, B.C., acquitted himself well skating in place of three-time world champion Patrick Chan. Reynolds’ routine featured three highly difficult quad jumps, and he landed them all.
Reynolds finished second in the men’s free, just behind winner Evgeni Plushenko of Russia. The result clinched the silver medal for the Canadians. What makes the performance sweeter for Reynolds was that he wasn’t sure he’d be ready for the Sochi Games at all as his Grand Prix season was plagued by equipment problems. He had trouble finding skates that would fit.
“I’m feeling really good after this performance,” he said. “Considering that I didn’t have any experience in the first half of the Grand Prix season and only the national championships as a precursor to this, I’m very very happy that I was able to get a relatively strong performance here, the first time at Olympic Games. Handling a different kind of pressure. It’s set me up well for the rest of the week.”
Russia clinched the gold in the women’s free skate when Yulia Lipnitskaya finished first and Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., skating with poise in her first Olympics, was fifth.
In the event-closing ice dance free skate, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finished second to American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
In the men’s 30-kilometre cross-country skiathlon, Alex Harvey of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canadian, finishing 18th with a time of one hour 10 minutes 00.5 seconds, while teammate Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was 25th in 1:10:14.6,
Harvey was considered a medal threat after a strong World Cup season, that included two victories. Russian-born Babikov was fifth in the event at the Vancouver Olympics.
“In the classical portion, it was over after the second leg,” Harvey said. “We had zero grip, and we were not very fast either. We lost 45 seconds in that portion, and we were pushing at 100 per cent, when the other guys in front were only pushing at 75 to 80 per cent.”
On the slopes, Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in 10th. Guay entered the Olympics with a win and a third-place finish in World Cup competition, but had been troubled by a troublesome knee.
“I skied all right. I made some mistakes around the lake jump. The snow was getting soft, and I had new skis, but I did try, Guay said.
“I am disappointed, but after how I did this season, it’s OK.”