Canada moved top of the Olympic gold charts with two days to go on Friday and their beloved ice hockey team got out of a close scrape to set up a mouth-watering closing day final with their American arch rivals.
Another Canadian with a newly won cult following also found herself in a tight spot as more gold looked there for the taking, but for once the coolest hand in women’s curling took aim — and missed — in a heart-stopping climax to the final with Sweden (7-6).
“You could not ask for an easier shot,” said tearful skip Cheryl Bernard after missing the opportunity to knock a couple of Swedish stones out with her final effort.
It was also a day when a Canadian with an amorous side — after he wins — slid to two golds in the rough and tumble sport of short track, while a Norwegian biathlon and a Chinese short track skater proved themselves masters of their disciplines.
Bernard looked sure to show herself mistress of hers, too. The 43-year-old darling of curling is so renowned for her accuracy that she is known as “last shot” because she usually makes that one end in defeat for her opposition.
“I rubbed it,” she said. “I missed it by millimeters.”
The loss of gold piled pressure not only on Canada’s unbeaten men’s team in the final against Norway on Saturday, but also on the other sport in which Canadians demand dominance — ice hockey.
The Canadian men, supposedly destined to claim gold in today’s Games finale, nearly fluffed their lines too, and it was a mighty close run against unheralded Slovakia who battled back from three down before the hosts prevailed 3-2.
Slovakia made them sweat in the closing 10 minutes of play, especially the final seconds when they swarmed the Canada net forcing several great saves from the home team’s last line of defense.
Gold in men’s ice hockey may be the only medal of interest to millions of Canadians who grow up on the sport, but success on another type of ice is what put Canada in charge of their own Games.
Charles Hamelin won a chaotic men’s 500m short-track skate and rushed to give medal-winning girlfriend Marianne St Gelais a passionate kiss. Hamelin then led the Canadian men to another gold in the 5,000m short track relay and more kissing ensued.
Canada, who only days ago were lamenting their lack of medals, stood alone on top of the standings with 10 golds.
China’s short-track skater Wang Meng became the second woman at the Games to win three golds, with victory in the women’s 1,000m. Chinese women won gold in all four short-track events.
German skier Maria Riesch grabbed her second gold in the slalom.
Lindsey Vonn won gold in the women’s downhill and bronze in super-G, but suffered her third non-finish in five events in the slalom.
On Cypress Mountain, Nicolien Sauerbreij of the Netherlands raced through a driving rainstorm and fog to win gold in parallel giant slalom snowboarding by a slim margin.
Norway’s men powered through a snowstorm to win the 4x7.5km biathlon relay, with anchorman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen moving within one medal of the leading Winter Olympic tally of 12.