Ottawa at the Olympics Day 10: In the face of adversity
By Ethan Diamandas & Charlie Pinkerton (This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)
It’s hard to believe we’re now 10 days into the Beijing Olympics, but, truthfully, things are really just getting started.
Four Ottawa athletes were in action either late Thursday or early Friday morning. Some continued their dominance, others crafted a challenging redemption arc. Either way, so far during the Games, the drama has built with each day — and Ottawa’s athletes are squarely in the middle of the pandemonium.
Let’s get you all up to speed on the latest and greatest.
A tale of two runs for Rahneva
Mirela Rahneva‘s first skeleton run was nice and easy. The 33-year-old Ottawa native sprinted, hopped on the sled, and got off to a fast start.
Canada is known for starting strong, the broadcasters noted, and after some steering corrections on the fourth and fifth turns, Rahneva was in good shape.
She crossed the finish line at 1:02.03 — a new track record — and clapped her hands in excitement as she splayed her legs and slowed to a halt.
Rahneva was atop the leaderboard after the first heat, but unraveled in her second run. She collided with the walls on multiple occasions and finished over one whole second behind her first time trial.
In ninth place with two runs left, Rahneva isn’t out of medal contention, but her rough second time through the course will make it difficult for her to climb onto the podium.
Team Jones suffers first loss in 13 games at Olympics
Jones hit an excellent raise takeout in the second end to take the lead, but unfortunately for Canada, Japan’s skip, Satsuki Fujisawa, was on fire.
Fujisawa curled 100 per cent through the first five ends, and when McEwen and Kaitlyn Lawes swept Jones’ final stone a little too light in the seventh end, Japan capitalized by delicately tapping for two. That end decided the match, as Canada fell 8-5.
“It’s always disappointing to lose,” Jones said after her first ever loss at the Olympics. “We had fun out there, we just didn’t play as well as we liked.”
Jones said the speed of the ice gave her some trouble.
“It’s early in the round robin, you’re gonna have those issues, it’s just a matter of how you deal with them,” she said.
In 2014, Jones’ rink set a record by going undefeated. In Beijing, her team will have to fight a little bit harder.
Rattray’s stock keeps rising
Massive underdogs coming into Friday, the Swedes gave Canada a good fight for as long as it could. The thing with this Canadian women’s team, though, is that when they get an edge, they look unstoppable.
That’s exactly what happened late in the first period of the 11-0 win. Jamie Lee Rattray fired a low shot on net and circled back to the top of the key. Her teammate fed the puck to Rattray, who connected with Sarah Fillier for a beautiful goal.
Fillier pointed at Rattray in gratitude after the goal, and 24 seconds later Rattray buried one of her own. After taking a pass a few feet from the blue line, Rattray locked her eyes on net, leaned hard on her flexing stick, and unleashed a rocket wrist shot headed for the goal.
The stunned Swedish goaltender stood no chance as the puck barreled over her shoulder with a poetic clink noise indicating a bar-down score.
The 29-year-old Rattray has exploded onto the scene in her first Olympic Games. Brought onto the team as a depth forward, Rattray’s scored four times in Beijing, and her seamless rise to Canada’s top lines is a big reason her club is bullying every single one of their opponents.
“It feels good to get some points and stuff like that, but I think overall, you can be really happy about how we are playing as a team,” Rattray told the Sports Pages’ Dan Plouffe in a recent phone interview from Beijing. Always modest, Rattray downplayed her personal achievements. It’s about the team she said, and right now that team is on fire heading into the semi-finals.
Day 11 Preview: Yet another rivalry game
The Canada-U.S. women’s hockey showdown earlier in the Games didn’t disappoint, and hockey fans are in for another epic matchup Friday night at 11:10 p.m. eastern.
Canada’s men’s team looked scary against Germany, with Ottawa’s Eric O’Dell demolishing a German defenceman with a punishing body check leading to a goal and getting things started for the Canadians.
“He came around the net with his head down and I finished my check,” O’Dell told CBC. “The team built off that and we got a couple of goals after that.”
But the Americans are much more formidable opponent, both in skill and strength. U.S.A. easily knifed through hosts China in a blowout victory, but now face Canada in a potential gold medal preview.
For Canada, it gets a boost when head coach Claude Julien, who was born and raised in Orleans, returns after a slip-and-fall injury made it unsafe for him to fly to Beijing.
“It’s going to be great having him back,” captain Eric Staal told the Toronto Sun Thursday. “It’s going to be a big boost for us. He’s got a ton of experience, he’s invested a lot into this group and this process to be here.”
Now, he’ll arrive behind the bench at a perfect time, as Canada will need plenty of veteran leadership as the tournament gets going.
Women’s curling, skeleton run it back
Team Jones will look to get back in the win column against Sweden Friday at 8:05 p.m. eastern in a rematch from the 2014 Sochi Games. Not every curler is as timeless as Jones, though, and Sweden’s rink has a new skip since 2014.
After losing to Great Britain but beating Japan, Sweden has a real chance to give Canada fits. Jones, McEwen, Weagle, and the rest of the crew will need to rediscover their team chemistry to win.
Rahneva starts her third and fourth runs Saturday at 7:20 a.m. eastern, and — with everything she’s put into these Games — there’s no doubt the pressure will be on to regain lost ground after a messy second run.
Stacked team pursuit team starts competition
There’s a reason Ivanie Blondin rested up for this event. Canada’s super squad of Blondin, Isabelle Weidemann, Valerie Maltais, and Alexa Scott was leading the World Circuit before the Games, and is the team to beat in Beijing.
“We have come an incredible long way in the last two years,” Blondin said to the Sports Pages of her team dynamic. “We are all very different, but we make it work.”
The crew is unique — Weidemann’s long strides provide an especially dangerous advantage — and it’ll look to continue Canada’s strong showing in skating, as the hunt for a third medal begins Saturday at 3:00 a.m. eastern.
It was a mixed bag of results from Ottawa Olympians on Day 10, but that’s the beauty of sport, especially at the highest level.
Canada is typically expected to dominate the Winter Games, but when adversity strikes and the athletes’ mental strength is really tested, that’s often when the best performances are born. So, when the party continues, keep checking in with us as we near the halfway point of these exciting Olympics.
This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.
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