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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 14: Speedskaters cash ‘golden ticket’

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By Ethan Diamandas, Charlie Pinkerton & Dan Plouffe (This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)

Gold for Canada in team pursuit

It started innocently enough — Canada’s long-track skating group of Valérie Maltais, Ivanie Blondin, and Isabelle Weidemann heard the gun and took off down the ice tucked into a neat line. 

Blondin, sandwiched between Maltais at the front and Weidemann’s tall frame in the rear, took a peak behind her as Japan took an early lead over Canada. The Japanese team looked focused, determined, and completely in sync with four laps to go, but Canada started to creep up.

Then, the air changed in Beijing as Blondin ducked back and Weidemann took the front of the pack.

In her familiar neon green goggles, Weidemann fixed her eyes on the track while the final lap began. Japan, the defending Olympic champions, held the lead in the final lap when Nana Takagi lost her balance and crashed into the padding.

It was Canada’s gold medal, as the trio whirred through the finish line with an Olympic record time of 2:53.44. The women, though exhausted, still had the strength to smile and lift a Canadian flag as they celebrated the win. Blondin laughed and hugged Weidemann, as the CBC broadcaster dubbed their team the “Golden Girls.”

The ‘golden ticket’ for Weidemann and Blondin

With a bronze medal (3,000 metres), a silver (5,000 metres), and now a gold in team pursuit, Weidemann has arguably been the most dominant Canadian Olympian in Beijing. But, before the Games, the 26-year-old made sure her teammates shared her confidence.

Last year, after finishing second at Worlds, the Canadian team was feeling down. Head coach Remmelt Eldering tried to cheer everyone up by promising the team it had a golden ticket to cash in Beijing — and Weidemann loved the analogy. 

“I made the girls golden tickets for their wallets that could only be cashed next year,” Weidemann told the CBC before the event. 

The golden prophecy came true in Beijing. 

“Oh my gosh,” Weidemann laughed, remembering her actions from a year prior. “We have a golden ticket.

“We are still thinking, is this real? We knew we had a strong team, we knew we could put pressure on Japan and all the other strong teams today. I don’t know if we’d thought about this possible outcome.”

For Blondin, the gold medal signifies pressure alleviated — and embraced — after coming up short of the podium in these Olympics and the last, despite otherwise being a mainstay among the world’s best skaters.

Finally, she’s an Olympic champion.

“I don’t even know what the medal means to me at this point,” a star-struck Blondin told the CBC. “It’s everything we’ve worked towards for the last four years.” 

When the women eventually trade in their souvenir stuffed animals for actual gold medals, they all agreed that’s when they would officially “cash” their golden tickets. Blondin, Weidemann, and Maltais deserve it, too, since their performance earned Canada its first ever gold in women’s team pursuit. 

Bobsled with respectable finish

Mike Evelyn and Chris Spring’s bobsled team sat in a modest eighth place through three heats. At that time, it was the highest ranking Canadian sled, but still significantly behind the German two-man groups that held the top three spots on the podium. 

In the final run, Evelyn gave a good push as Spring steered them to a narrow lead over the field. A short wobble across the finish line made it close, but the sled crossed in the green, giving Canada the lead for the moment.

Evelyn clapped his hands while Spring flexed his arms in celebration — the duo was clearly happy with their time of 59.93 seconds. 

“Thank you Canada,” an upbeat Spring said to the broadcast camera. “Thanks for all the support.”

The success was short-lived, as Germany expectedly swept the podium and pushed Spring’s and Evelyn’s sled to a seventh-place finish.

Canada overpowers China in hockey

The Chinese men’s hockey team was one of this Games’ bigger surprises, as no one really knew what to expect from a nation not traditionally recognized for hockey. But China has shown it belongs, and it gave Canada a good run in a playoff qualification game Tuesday morning. 

China potted a goal before the horn in the first, but their starting goaltender left the game with an injury and Canada capitalized. In a blink Canada was up big, with Eric O’Dell deflecting in a goal to extend the lead to four. 

At the final whistle, Canada won the game 7-2. 

Day 15 Preview: A double dose of curling

Lisa Weagle and Dawn McEwen‘s curling rink is closing in on the end of round robin play with a matchup against the U.S. Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. eastern, then a showdown with China Wednesday at 7:05 a.m. eastern.

It’s crunch time for Jennifer Jones and co., as Canada sits one win behind the fourth place playoff spot. With one extra game to play, the Canadians still have a chance to squeak in, but they’ll need plenty more magic from Jones in some challenging matchups over the next two days. 

Men’s hockey playoffs officially begin

After rolling through China, Canada now squares off against a quality Swedish squad that finished 2-0-1 in the round robin. 

That quarterfinal game, which begins Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. eastern, will be a rematch of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where Canada won a gold medal off the backs of vintage players such as Jonathan Toews, Chris Kunitz, and Sidney Crosby, who all scored.

This time around there’s no NHL help, leaving new potential heroes like O’Dell and Carp, Ont.’s Mason McTavish with the opportunity to drive their nation to another gold. 

(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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