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.)
Two of Canada’s more dominant teams — women’s hockey and women’s curling — saw their Games come to a close in dramatically different fashions Thursday morning.
For one group of women, it was a moment of pure ecstasy. For the other, anguish.
There was plenty to recap, so let’s start with the good news.
Women’s hockey caps off perfect Games with gold medal
Unbeaten and amped up, Canada knew what it was up against in its gold medal showdown with the United States. Canada’s women’s hockey team rolled through the Americans in the round robin, but understood not to take them lightly, especially after the U.S. stole gold in 2018 PyeongChang.
When the puck dropped, Canada was in its best form. Sarah Nurse opened the scoring early in the first and the Canadian bench lit up with excitement.
The team doubled down on the energy when captain Marie-Philip Poulin sniped one of her two goals on the night just minutes later, pushing Canada closer and closer to the gold medal.
The U.S. pushed back, but after a big hit behind the net smothered any scoring chances, the final whistle blew, signifying Canada’s 3-2 gold medal victory.
The screaming started first from the bench, then moved to the goal crease as the Canadians tossed their gloves and sticks in the air and mobbed goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens.
Jamie Lee Rattray was right in the middle of the pack, hugging her teammates and shouting in joy. The 29-year-old Kanata native, who scored five goals in the tournament, had just won a gold medal in her first Olympic Games.
“It’s insane. I can’t stop shaking. I just stopped crying,” Canadian rookie Sarah Fillier told CBC. “This is like a dream come true and it’s been a really long four years and to do it with the girls on that team, there’s nothing more special than that.”
For Rattray, patience paid off. She was passed over for the 2018 Olympics, but capitalized on her opportunity in Beijing. It’s a treat for all players to win a gold medal, yet for Rattray, the moment likely feels a lot sweeter.
Women’s curling eliminated in tiebreaker
In contrast to its success in the arena, Canada fell heartbreakingly short of qualifying for playoffs in women’s curling.
An easy 10-4 win over Denmark thrusted Team Jones into a three-way tie with Japan and Great Britain for the final playoff spot. That’s where things got messy.
In women’s curling, tiebreakers are decided by the Draw Shot Challenge, which factors in the average distance of all individual last stone draws delivered by a team during the round robin.
Canada was in dead last in that statistic, eliminating Jennifer Jones’ rink from the Games — and the skip was not happy.
“It’s unfortunate because we’ve actually done really well at that this year, and it just wasn’t our week for it,” Jones admitted to CBC.
“I’m never going to be of the opinion that the draw shot challenge should be how playoff teams are decided. I’ve been pretty vocal about it before this. It’s too bad that it happened but we knew where we were at.”While an ultimately disappointing result, Team Canada fought hard and made memories along the way, which wasn’t lost on Kaitlyn Lawes.
“I’m so thankful for experiencing the Olympics again with Jen and Dawn [McEwen],” Lawes wrote in a Curling Canada blog post.
“I’m inspired to see the Games through Jocelyn [Peterman]’s eyes and so happy that my roomie got to take part in this journey with me. Lisa [Weagle] has been such a great addition to our team, and I appreciate her support so much.”
Men’s hockey details disappointment
While the women snagged a gold medal for Canada, the men’s hockey team was still absorbing its loss from a day prior.
Eliminated in the quarterfinals by Sweden, Canada is heading home without a medal in the event for the first time in 16 years. The players spoke to that disappointment after the game.
“Part of this jersey is winning,” Canadian goalie Matt Tomkins told the Toronto Sun. “It’s heartbreaking to fall short of that. We came here to win a gold medal. Anything less than that is now what we were hoping for.”
Canada never really clicked on offence, despite young stars like Mason McTavish and others, which head coach Claude Julien pinned on a lack of pre-tournament work.
“There was lots of adversity – and that was everybody who came here,” Julien said. “The pandemic, we had to face different things. Pre-tournament games were cancelled. At the end of the day, this group here was pretty resilient.”
The Canadian players were resilient, but not resilient enough to bring home a medal.
Hannah Schmidt impresses in debut
Hannah Schmidt told the Sports Pages earlier this month she would enter Beijing without any set goals, but she’s got to be happy with her performance in ski cross early Thursday morning.
After a strong seeding round, the 27-year-old, who’s competing in her first Olympics, flew out of the gates leading her semifinal heat. Schmidt eventually coughed up the lead to Canadian teammate Marielle Thompson, but both racers qualified for the final race.
Back home, Schmidt’s family showed their passion and support, with her grandparents making a video cheering on their granddaughter.
Schmidt would race again in the small final (the non-medal heat) and she shined once again, this time placing seventh overall.
It was a dominant display at the women’s ski cross event, with four of the top eight skiers hailing from Canada, including Thompson’s silver medal. Overall, a successful set of races for Alpine Canada, and Schmidt played a big part in the effort.
Day 17 Preview: Jared Schmidt’s turn to race
Like his sister, Hannah, Jared Schmidt‘s eyes were always fixed on the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.
Yet Schmidt’s talent seeped into the 2021 World Cup circuit, where he raced to his first international medal — a bronze — in Bakuriani, Georgia. That experience tossed some reality into his spot atop the nation’s best skiers. Suddenly, a trip to Beijing wasn’t so far off.
Schmidt said he was stoked after the race in Georgia. After that, on Dec. 14, Schmidt placed third in the World Cup event in Switzerland. He then followed that up with a silver medal at the Nor-Am Cup race in Nakiska, Alta., on Jan. 19.
It seemed inevitable Canada would call his name come Olympic selection time, and when the committee chose him, Schmidt loved the thought of competing at the same Games as his sister.
“Both Hannah and I have worked extremely hard over these past few years and it’s great to see it paying off with great results, qualifying us for the Olympics,” Jared told the Sports Pages in an email.
Schmidt won’t come into Beijing as a favourite to medal, but if his previous events have told us anything, he thrives as the underdog, and he’s ready for the challenge.
The 24-year-old will race for seeding Thursday at 10:45 p.m. eastern, then again at 1:45 a.m. Friday in the final heats.
(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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