Cournoyer wins 500-metre speed skating bronze for Canada 0
Canada's Charle Cournoyer skates past Freek van der Wart of the Netherlands who crashes out during the men's 500-metre short-track speed skating quarterfinals at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 21, 2014. (DAVID GRAY/Reuters)
Canadian short-track speed skating star Charles Hamelin was asked if there was a French equivalent for the expression “s--- happens.”
Thinking it over for a couple of seconds, Hamelin smiled and said: “In Quebec, we say ‘S--- happens.’”
Which is, Hamelin added, probably the best way to summarize what happened to Canada’s powerful short-track speed skating team at the Sochi Olympics. The team came into these Games hoping for at least five medals, but left with three — Hamelin’s gold in the 1,500 metres, silver in the ladies 3,000m relay and, Friday, Charle Cournoyer’s bronze in the men’s 500m.
Hamelin fell twice, in the 500m and 1,000m, his girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais fell in the 1,000m heats, his brother Francois fell in the 5,000m relay heats and Valerie Maltais, who set an Olympic record in the 1,000m heats on Tuesday (1:28.771), fell in the semifinal Friday.
“There’s nothing to understand, I think it’s just bad luck,” said Hamelin, who was a contender in all four men’s events coming into Sochi. “Sometimes you have one bad luck, sometimes you have two, sometimes you have many bad lucks. It’s part of life, it’s part of sport. The main point is you need to come back strong. For us maybe it wasn’t a Games we expected, for me and for the team, but it was just another competition. We have the worlds in 2 1/2 weeks we want to get ready for this.”
Francois Hamelin falling in the 5,000m relay heats was especially devastating for the relay team, which came into Sochi fully expecting the gold.
“I can’t even tell you how gloomy our couple of condos back at the athletes village were for a bit there,” said team member Michael Gilday of Yellowknife. “The worst finish we had is second in the past four Olympics in men’s relay and we’ve been world champions three years in a row. You guys don’t have to tell us we wanted to win and we knew we had the jam to win this thing and Frank hit a block. What can you do?”
Cournoyer’s bronze put a smile on the face of everybody on the team on Friday. Not only was the medal a surprise, given the fact that he’s the youngest member of the team at 22, but it’s a shot in the arm for the program. The boyish Cournoyer has been described the next Charles Hamelin on the Canadian team and winning a medal in his first Olympics sets him up nicely for the future.
“I came in here to have as much fun as possible,” said Cournoyer. “I was expecting to be good, but the bronze medal? It was a fog for me. I was just racing, doing what I know.”
The Boucherville, Que. native rose to the occasion in his final, hanging around the front for most of the race and then surviving a bump with Chinese skater Wenhao Liang, which resulted in the Chinese skater crashing, and then holding on for bronze behind the brilliant Russian skater Victor An and Dajing Wu of China.
“It feels good, just awesome,” said Cournoyer. “I raced like I wanted to race. I followed the plan, I focused very hard on each (heat). When I was in the final, I was not thinking about a medal, I was thinking about racing, about winning the race, not getting a medal.”
Cournoyer said the fact that he won a medal didn’t hit home until the race was over and he was doing a warm down lap around the Iceberg Skating Palace ice and he spotted his coach Derrick Campbell waving.
“It took me a lap or two, and when I passed in front of my coach, he was, like, ‘wow, you did it!” said Cournoyer.
An Olympic legend was born after another big day for Russian short-track speed skater Victor An.
An won the men’s 500 metre title on Friday and then capped his day by leading the Russian team to gold in the men’s 5,000 metre relay — the nation’s first gold medal in the event. An now has three golds and a bronze in Sochi (Canadian Charles Hamelin took the gold in the 1,500). The 28-year-old native of South Korea is the first athlete to have won a medal in all four events at a single Games and has now won a record of six gold medals in short track.
His eight total medals matches the record of American short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. An competed for his native South Korea until 2011 when, after a dispute with the Korean federation, he became a Russian citizen.
“This has been the best experience of my sporting career and I will never forget Sochi,” he said. “Before the competitions started, I just wanted to concentrate on doing my best and show what I could be on the Olympic stage.”
As for tying Ohno’s record, An said: “I’m happy to have tied the record for medals in short track — and I’m even happier to have done it as a Russian.”
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