LONDON — As Dylan Armstrong’s fifth and final throw fell with a thud well short of the 21-metre mark, one of Canada’s biggest medal hopes at the London Games came to a disappointing end.
At least he was spared the heartbreak of missing the podium by an excruciatingly slim margin this time.
Armstrong finished fifth in men’s shot put on Friday, his best shot of 20.93 metres landing 30 centimetres behind the bronze-medal mark. It was a deflating end to Armstrong’s quest to put his near miss at the 2008 Beijing Games — where he missed the podium by less than a centimetre — behind him.
Still, Armstrong said he wasn’t as upset about missing out on a medal this time.
“Not as much because it was so close (in Beijing), to come a centimetre, that’s pretty tight,” the native of Kamloops, B.C., said. “At least it wasn’t by a centimetre this time, if you want to look at it that way. But I’m going to keep my head up and just go hard next year and see what happens there, and hopefully try to get a gold at the world championships.
“You’ve got to move ahead, this is a tough sport.”
It was a tough day for all of Canada’s medal hopefuls on Day 7 of these Games. Rowers Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen, silver medallists in Beijing, finished last in the men’s coxless pair final.
And Jason Burnett, who also won silver at the last Games, stumbled early in his routine and settled for eighth in the men’s trampoline final. Canada was shut out of the medals after winning hardware for three straight days.
Canada holds at seven medals, two silver and five bronze, and is tied for 11th in the overall standings with Romania.
It wasn’t all bad news, as some Canadian athletes set themselves up for a run at a medal.
The women’s soccer team stunned host Great Britain 2-0 to move into the semifinals. And the women’s basketball team upset Brazil 79-73 to clinch a spot in the quarter-finals.
And while Armstrong wasn’t able to give Canada an athletics medal, Jessica Zelinka was third after four events in the heptathlon, surging into a medal position after languishing in 19th after a poor high jump. The London, Ont., native ran the 200 metres in a personal-best time of 23.32 seconds to complete her turnaround.
Determined to improve on his fourth-place finish in Beijing, Armstrong upped his game and became the top-ranked shot putter in the world last year. But an elbow injury earlier this year limited his training, and he seemed a half-step behind medallists.
“That affected it quite a bit, I’m not going to lie, taking almost a month off and then nursing it for another three weeks after,” Armstrong said. “Big thanks to my medical team, without those guys I wouldn’t even be throwing here.”
Poland’s Tomasz Majewski won gold at 21.89 metres, saving his best throw for last and passing Germany’s David Storl’s mark of 21.86 metres. Reese Hoffa of the United States was third in 21.23 metres.
On the water, Victoria’s Calder and Frandsen, from Kelowna, B.C., were Canada’s final chance to add to its rowing haul. But they finished their race in six minutes 30.49 seconds, nowhere near gold-medal winning New Zealand, which dominated in 6:16.65. France won the silver, while Britain took bronze.
The pair were surprised with the result, considering they thought their pace was competitive.
“It’s tough to nail down,” said Frandsen. “It felt like we had a pretty solid piece (going). We got into a really lively rhythm at 39 strokes a minute, 40. It felt pretty efficient. It just wasn’t there.”
Canada ended up with two rowing silvers, compared to a gold, a silver and two bronze in Beijing.
In trampoline, Burnett was out of the running early. He made a mistake on the first of his 10 skills and had to settle for an eighth-place finish. A slight over-rotation affected his second move and Burnett was forced to land along the padded edge that protects the springs.
He flailed in the air toward the middle of the trampoline and landed on his feet as a look of crushing disappointment washed over his face.
“I felt there was a lot I could have improved upon and I knew the mistakes I’d made and I was ready to correct them,” the native of Nobleton, Ont., said. “It’s just that I didn’t get there.”
Not all athletes were coming up short compared to Beijing. The women’s soccer and basketball teams entered uncharted Olympic territory.
Jonelle Filigno and Christine Sinclair scored in the first half to silence the pro-British crowd and put Canada through to the semifinals.
“I think we are in shock right now. To win the way we did, I’m just speechless,” Sinclair said.
Canada will play gold-medal favourite United States in Monday’s semifinal at Old Trafford, home to the legendary Manchester United team.
The soccer team played its most complete game of the tournament and downed host Great Britain 2-0. It was the first two goals the British conceded at the Games.
Jonelle Filigno and Christine Sinclair scored for Canada, which moves on the play the favoured United States in the semifinals on Monday at Old Trafford in Manchester.
“The Americans are obviously favourites for the tournament and are on fire right now,” Sinclair said. “But we know them very well and we deserve to be there.”
The women’s basketball team earned its first win over Brazil in 12 years guarantee a berth in the quarter-finals. Kim Smith of Mission, B.C., and Ottawa’s Courtnay Pilypaitis each had 14 points to lead Canada.
“We have had support from our friends and family, but nobody really expected us to be going to the quarter-finals,” Hamilton’s Shona Thorburn said.
“I think this could do great things for basketball in Canada and team sports in general.”
Canada finishes its preliminary round with a game against Australia on Sunday.
Elsewhere at the Olympics:
— Canada finished fourth in qualifying and advanced to the final of the women’s team pursuit in track cycling.
— In diving, Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., and Emilie Heymans of St. Lambert, Que., qualified for the final of the women’s three-metre diving. Able was fourth in the preliminary round, and Heymans sixth.
— Custio Clayton of Dartmouth, N.S., beat Australian Cameron Hammond 14-11 to advance to the quarter-finals of the men’s 69-kilogram boxing event. He will face Britain’s Freddie Evans in the next round.
— Victoria’s Ryan Cochrane advanced to the men’s 1,500 freestyle swimming final. He easily won his heat and qualified third overall. Cochrane won bronze in the event at the 2008 Olympics.
— Montreal’s Victoria Poon was fifth in her heat to advance to the women’s 50-metre freestyle semifinals.
— Canada’s qualified eighth for Saturday’s final in the 4×100 medley. The women’s team meanwhile missed the final with a sixth-place finish in their heat.
— Jenna Martin of Bridgewater, N.S., ran 51.98 seconds in the women’s 400 to qualify in a tie for 14th overall ahead of Saturday’s semifinal.