SOCHI, Russia – Denny Morrison was elated, Charles Hamelin was stunned and Canada earned a medal no one was anticipating at the Sochi Games.
Morrison felt no pressure to perform in the men’s 1,500-metre long-track speedskating event after having already earned a surprise silver medal in the 1,000.
Hamelin meanwhile was a presumed lock to win a medal — possibly gold in colour — in the men’s 1,000 short-track speedskating after winning the 1,500-metre event.
But Hamelin fell in the quarter-finals while Morrison soared to bronze, giving Canada’s its 12th medal Saturday at the midway point of the Olympics.
“It’s the best week of my life, man,” said Morrison. “I liken it to a little bit of a fairy tale.”
The Fort St. John, B.C., native briefly led the field, finishing in one minute 45.22 seconds. He wasn’t as good as Poland’s Zbigniew Brodka, who’s margin of victory was just .003 seconds ahead of Koen Verweij of the Netherlands in the event’s closest finish in Olympic speedskating history.
Morrison, who earlier won silver in the 1,000 after teammate Gilmore Junio gave up his spot, said the two races were unique experiences.
“This is different from the 1,000,” said Morrison. “I felt so lucky to even be competing.
“That was an explosion of emotions. This was more that I could get it and I managed to celebrate a bit calmer this time.”
Canada now has four gold, five silver and three bronze, which is tied for fifth overall with Germany. Russia leads with 15, followed by the United States and the Netherlands in a tie for second with 14.
Norway has 13 medals.
The 12 medals are an improvement on the eight Canada had at the half four years ago at the Vancouver Games. Canada finished with 26 in 2010, and the goal for the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own The Podium was to win the overall medal count in Sochi.
Finishing with more than 26 medals will still be considered a victory.
Canada could’ve had 13 medals if Hamelin hadn’t fallen in what he considers his favourite event. The Ste-Julie, Que., skater entered the Winter Olympics planning to win four medals, but now the best he can hope for is two after the relay team was eliminated in the semifinals.
“I was mentally and physically ready to do well,” said Hamelin, who can still win one more medal in the 500. “Short track can be really fickle.
“Everything can go well at a competition or you can have ups and downs. The important thing is to keep your focus and be mentally strong after you’ve had a bad day.”
A victory in the 500, the distance Hamelin took gold in four years ago, would tie him for the all-time record of five by a Canadian man shared by fellow short trackers Marc Gagnon and Louis-Francis Tremblay.
Hamelin was hardly suffering compared to Patrick Chan.
One day after the figure skater won silver — or, in his opinion, missed out on gold — in men’s singles, Chan was publicly musing about leaving the sport entirely.
A sudden retirement by the reigning three-time world champion would send shockwaves through the sport. The 23-year-old Toronto native isn’t even sure if he’ll defend his title at the next month’s world championships.
“Do I enjoy competing, do I enjoy those minutes leading up to stepping on the ice? Am I so fearful that I don’t enjoy it anymore? Or am I enjoying the fear and do I (thrive on that)?” said Chan.
“I’ll have to take time and think about that — if I want to relive moments like I lived yesterday. Can I take that experience again? I have to really think about it.”
Curling medals could be in Canada’s future after a perfect day for Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs.
Jones secured first place in the women’s round robin and a semifinal berth with a pair of wins that improved her to 7-0. The Winnipeg skip defeated Japan 8-6 before earning a 5-3 victory against Russia.
“The goal at the start of the week was to make the playoffs,” said Jones. “Now we just need to make sure we are as sharp as we can be for the end of the week.”
Jacobs meanwhile stole a point in the final end to beat Britain 7-5 albeit in an unconvincing performance.
The win is the fourth straight for the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., rink and leaves it tied with Britain for second at 5-2. After starting the tournament 1-2, Jacobs has Canada back on track for the podium, even if the path has been rocky.
“This is curling, this is sports,” Jacobs said. “There is always going to be adversity.
“But we’ve faced this kind of stuff before where we have to win a bunch of games in a row.”