Despite some surprising misses, Canada assured of highest Winter Olympic medal count


Canada is assured of its highest medal count at a Winter Olympics with two days of competition to go, and that’s without expected contributions in sports it normally dominates.

A three-medal day, led by Kelsey Serwa’s gold and Brittany Phelan’s silver in women’s skicross and Kaetlyn Osmond’s figure-skating bronze, gave Canada 27 overall medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, eclipsing its previous high of 26 from the 2010 Vancouver Games.

But an expected medal in men’s curling will not be added to the coffers after Kevin Koe lost 7-5 to Switzerland in the bronze-medal game. Coupled with Rachel Homan’s disappointing showing in the women’s tournament, Canada will be without a medal in both team events since the sport was re-introduced to the Winter Games in 1998.

And it remains to be seen whether the men’s hockey team will be able to up the medal count after a shocking 4-3 semifinal loss to Germany. Canada will now face the Czech Republic for bronze on Saturday, while the upstart Germans face the Olympic Athletes from Russia in Sunday’s final.

Canada had won the last two Olympic gold medals, though those victories came with star-studded rosters. Canada’s best players were not available for these Games as the NHL decided not to interrupt its season to allow its players to participate.

Despite a few high-profile disappointments, Canada was in second in the overall medal count heading into the final weekend of the Games with 10 gold, eight silver and nine bronze. Norway had an unassailable lead atop the standings with 37, while Germany was one behind Canada at 26.

The Norwegians and Germans lead the gold-medal standings with 13 apiece, while Canada sat third. Canada had 14 gold in Vancouver and will be hard-pressed to match that total in Pyeongchang.

As they have all Games, Canada’s freestyle skiers started the day with a bang when Serwa, from Kelowna, B.C., and Phelan, from Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished 1-2 in the women’s skicross.

The medals were the sixth and seventh for Canada’s freestyle team.

“Our skis were rockets today,” said the 28-year-old Serwa, who finished second in Sochi four years ago behind fellow Canadian Marielle Thompson.

“I had a plan and executed it, and was so fired up. And to be there with my teammate and best friend Britt too.”

Phelan called the 1-2 Canadian finish “absolutely amazing.”

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” she said. “To finish second behind my best friend, it’s like a dream come true.”

About three hours later, Osmond, from Marystown, N.L., took bronze in women’s figure skating for Canada’s 27th medal.

Osmond, all smiles after her performance, wasn’t aware of the significance of her bronze.

“I did not know that, but that is very exciting,” she said.

Skate Canada’s high performance director Mike Slipchuk was keeping track of the medal tally, however.

“That was in the back of my mind when I saw the two skicross medals today,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, we’re the first gold of the Games (the team figure skating event) and we can be the first ones to put us over to 27.”

Osmond scored 152.15 in her long program to music from “Black Swan” for a combined score of 231.02. The 22-year-old, who almost quit skating after breaking her leg in a training accident in 2014, nailed her long program with seven triples jumps. Her only mishap was a slight bobble on a triple Lutz.

Russia’s Alina Zagitova, just 15 years old, scored a combined 239.57 to capture gold. Teammate and reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva won silver with 238.26 points.

In the moments after her medal-winning skate, Osmond thought of the gruesome broken leg that almost drove her out of the sport, and she was so thankful that it happened.

“It feels like forever ago,” Osmond said. “To think that I almost hung up my skates then and called it quits, it’s amazing.

“But I don’t think I would have been able to perform the way I did today without that injury. I re-grouped and almost became a new person afterwards. I had to mature. I had to refocus on how to stay on the ice and feel strong. And I don’t think I would have been able to perform this choreography as good as I could without that experience.”

Calgary’s Koe couldn’t keep the medal momentum going, losing to Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz for the second time.

“I know after results like this people are going to reflect on what went wrong, but I think at the end of the day it just comes down to individual performances and stepping up at the most difficult event in the world,” Koe’s third Marc Kennedy said.

Kennedy said other countries are stepping up in curling, and its showing. He also found a tiny nugget of solace in the fact the United States will be playing in Saturday’s gold-medal game against Sweden. Las Vegas is hosting the men’s world curling championship in April.

“The one side is we want the sport to grow around the world and U.S.A. making the gold-medal final might be the best thing that ever happened to curling,” Kennedy observed.

“It might not be the best thing that ever happens to Canadian curling.”

Unlike Koe’s curling foursome, Canada’s men’s hockey team can still win a medal. But they missed a gilt-edged chance for a guaranteed spot on the podium with a loss to the unheralded Germans.

The disciplined Germans made Canada pay for sloppy and undisciplined play over the first two periods and carved out a 4-1 lead. By the time Canada woke up in the third, it was too late.

“It’s as disappointing as it gets right there,” said Canadian defenceman Mat Robinson. “A tough loss for us and we let our country down today. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

“It’s too little too late. We shot ourselves in the foot in the beginning of the game and we weren’t able to come back from it,” he added.

It was only Germany’s second victory in 30 meetings with Canada in Olympic and world championship play. The first was a 5-1 win at the 1996 world championships.

The Canadian men had won the last 11 meetings, outscoring the Germans 58-15, and had gone 11-0-1 against the Germans since the 1996 loss.

Canada’s men’s shocker came a day after the women’s disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the United States in the gold-medal final. Canadian defenceman Jocelyne Larocque took off her silver medal after it was placed around her neck, which she apologized for Friday.

Larocque issued a statement through Hockey Canada apologizing to the IOC, International Ice Hockey Federation, the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Hockey Canada and her teammates and fans.

“I’m proud of our team, and proud to be counted among the Canadian athletes who have won medals at these Games,” Larocque said. “Being on the podium at the world’s biggest sporting event is a great achievement and one that I’m thankful I was able to experience with my teammates.”

Larocque removed the medal as soon as it was placed around her neck. The image was captured on television and then shared widely on social media.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the wrong Canadian gold medal count at the 2010 Games.