SOCHI, Russia — A selfless act and an unexpected performance equalled a fifth straight day with a medal for Canada at the Sochi Olympics.
Canada won its 10th medal of the Games when long-track speedskater Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., raced to silver in the men’s 1,000 metres.
It was Morrison’s first Olympic individual medal, and it came with an big assist from teammate Gilmore Junio, who gave up his spot in the event so Morrison could race.
“It’s a dream, a fairytale story,” said an emotional Morrison after earning his third Olympic medal in three Games. “It’s difficult to really believe that it’s happening.”
It was a remarkable end to a redemption story for Morrison, who failed to qualify for the 1,000 at the Canadian trials after coming back from a broken leg.
There were no other Cinderella stories for Canada’s Olympic team Wednesday, though the doubles luge team came close. Calgary’s Tristan Walker and Justin Snith posted Canada’s second fourth-place finish in luge in as many days.
With 10 medals (four gold, four silver, two bronze), Canada is tied for second in overall medals with the Netherlands. Norway leads with 12.
Germany has the most gold medals with six.
Canada’s 10th medal was a bit of a surprise, especially given that Morrison was preparing for the 1,500 metres when he got an unexpected call from Junio.
On Monday night, Morrison got a text on one of the phones provided by the Canadian team. It said: “Hey man, are you ready to race the 1,000? I’ll give you my spot.”
Because the phone was Russian, he did not recognize the number attached to the text.
“I knew it was from a teammate but I thought maybe someone stole his phone … I had to go hear it in person.”
He jumped on a bike and went to Canada Olympic House where Junio was with both skaters’ families.
“I heard it from the horse’s mouth,” said Morrison. “That was an Olympic moment, special in and of itself.”
“He told me we need some medals on this team and he believed I could win a medal and historically I had better results in the thousand than him,” he added. “And so it sounded like he wanted me to go and get this one.”
And get it he did. Morrison finished just four one-hundredths of a second behind winner Stefan Groothius and became the only non-Dutch male skater to win a long-track medal so far in Sochi.
Junio, watching the race live, was naturally ecstatic with the result.
“I was breathing hard, I have lost my voice and I am so pleased for him,” the Calgary native said.
Morrison said there is a rumour that Speed Skating Canada is pushing to have Junio as the Canadian flag-bearer at the closing ceremonies. It’s something he supports.
“Maybe that’s something we can get behind, because I think that would be really special,” he said. “He does embody what it means to be a Canadian Olympian, I think.”
The hashtag gilforflagbearer quickly started popping up on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon as users threw their support behind the idea.
Canada came close to adding to its medal tally when Calgary’s Snith and Walker, from Cochrane, Alta., finished fourth in the luge doubles. The pair finished just five one hundredths of a second short of the podium.
“We’re capable of sliding with the best in the world, we proved it tonight,” Walker said.
They will have a chance to prove it again soon. Snith and Walker will take place in Thursday’s luge relay along with Alex Gough, who was fourth in the women’s event Tuesday, and Sam Edney.
While the medal round in women’s hockey won’t start for a few days, rivals Canada and the United States provided a possible gold-medal preview Wednesday. Meghan Agosta-Marciano had two goals and an assist to lead Canada to an entertaining 3-2 victory.
“I’ve been a little bit under the weather, but I’m not going to let that get to me,” Agosta-Marciano said. “I’m going to keep battling. Hockey players, they all have bad games sometimes. I’m not going to let it bother me.”
The game had some controversy when it sounded like the whistle went before Hayley Wickenheiser scored Canada’s second goal, but it was confirmed after a video review.
Canada finished atop Group A at 3-0 and will join the U.S. in the tournament semifinals.
Winnipeg Jennifer Jones continues to roll in women’s curling, improving to 3-0 after a 9-6 win over Great Britain.
With time winding down, British skip Eve Muirhead could have played an easy draw to the button with her last stone to take the game to an extra end.
Instead, she gambled on removing three tightly bunched Canadian rocks to pick up three points for the win. The move backfired, and Canada clinched its third victory.
Jones said she “probably would have thrown the draw to go to the extra end.”
“It was a tough triple to get everything to spin out,” Jones said, “but I guess she makes them a lot.”
In men’s curling, Brad Jacobs and his rink form Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., put a pair of tough losses behind them with a 7-4 win over host Russia.
Canada improved to 2-2 by silencing the noisy partisan crowd with four points in the fifth end.
Jacobs and his teammates decided to watch video clips of their unbeaten run in the Olympic trials to fire them up.
“It got us pumped,” Canada lead Ryan Harnden said. “We just haven’t been on our game. We’ve been struggling with rocks, ice, but tonight was normal Team Jacobs.”
Canada was left off the podium in figure skating pairs competition, but fifth-place finishers Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Toronto’s Dylan Moscovitch weren’t hanging their heads.
In fact, they were already committing to the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“This is far too much fun,” Moore-Towers said through a wide smile. “Yeah. Hell yeah. We say we’re going to take it one year at a time, but why not, right? Dream big.”
“I think we’re just starting to hit our stride, and I’m really excited to see what more we’re capable of,” Moscovitch added. “We’re very lucky.
“Why would we stop while we still can do this? Because we’re going to miss it one day for sure.”
Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., world bronze medallists last year, dropped from fifth after the short program to finish seventh.