The day was shaping up to be a Canadian Olympic catastrophe.
The Canadian men’s alpine skiing team, of whom so much had been expected, came utterly unglued on the super-G course Friday. Only Eric Guay, with two respectable fifth-place finishes in the downhill Monday and super-G Friday, seemed not to be overawed by the occasion of hosting the Olympics.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis is to Canada in this Olympics what Bode Miller was to the US in 2006: The face of a team destined to do great things. But the likeness between Osborne-Paradis and Miller, version 2006, did not stop there, unfortunately.
In the downhill, where he was a strong medal favorite, he finished 17th. In the super-G Friday, where he was at least a medal contender, he careened out of the course near the top and did not finish.
Canada’s star on the rise, Whistler native Robbie Dixon, was supposed to have the home-course advantage. But he crashed in both races, even putting his head through a gate in the downhill.
Redemption, at least, would come in the skeleton heats later Friday night, it seemed. Two Canadians were in solid medal positions with two heats left.
The women went first, and Mellisa Hollingsworth found herself in second place with one heat left, 0.01 seconds ahead of third-placed Kerstin Szymkowiak, 0.23 ahead of fourth-place Noelle Pikus-Pace and 0.32 seconds ahead of fifth-placed Anja Huber.
A decent run, and she would have no worse than bronze.
But on the track that she knows better than anyone else in the world, Hollingsworth imploded in her final heat. Not only did she fall below Szymkowiak, but she dropped out of the medal places entirely, finishing fifth, 0.16 seconds behind Pikus-Pace.
So it was that Jon Montgomery stood at the top of the track for his final heat.
Ominously, he was in the same position as Hollingsworth had been: second place. But this time, it was the leader that flinched, with Latvian Martins Dukurs giving up 0.25 seconds to Montgomery in the final heat.
At the finish line, Montgomery whooped like a lumberjack with his britches on fire.
A gold, at last, and pleasant dreams from St. John’s to Victoria.
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