To say Canada’s Olympic team got off to a slow start in Salt Lake City is probably the understatement of the year—crowned by that image of speed skater Jeremy Wotherspoon sprawled on the ice (“like Bambi,” as one sportswriter put it).
But, wow, what a finish!
Heading into the final week of competition, we had a measly seven medals (two gold, one silver, and four bronze) to sit tied with that mighty Arctic powerhouse known as France—17 medals behind front-running Germany.
Frankly, the Canadian Olympic Association’s boast before the Games of finishing third overall in the medal standings seemed to have either grossly over-estimated our athletes’ abilities, or conversely, grossly under-estimated the competition.
But in the end, it was the “doubting Thomases” who were proven wrong. Team Canada racked up 10 more medals over the final five days, including those two nation-rallying gold against Team U.S.A. by our men’s and women’s hockey teams, for our best-ever showing at the Winter Olympics.
We ended up fourth overall in the standings (topping even Russia)—just missing what had seemed to be a lofty, if not downright unrealistic, goal a few days earlier.
Sure there were disappointments. Our Alpine teams were blanked, as were our snowboarders. Kevin Martin was heavy with his final stone to lose the gold medal to Norway, and Kelley Law was shocked by Great Britain in the semi-finals and had to settle for bronze.
And then there was Mr. Wotherspoon, favoured to medal in both the 500m and 1,000m events only to come away empty-handed.
But there were great moments, too. Speed skater Catriona Le May Doan shrugging off the pressure to win the women’s 500m race. The surprise bronze in cross-country skiing by Beckie Scott, and by Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes in speed skating.
There was that stunning show by aerialists Veronica Brenner and Deidre Dionne, as well as Marc Gagnon and the rest of our short-track speed skaters.
And, of course, who will ever forget that memorable performance by Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in pairs figure skating.
Oh, did we mention hockey?
Athletes, you all did Canada proud. Thanks for a wonderful 16 days.