Two of Canada’s medal hopefuls at the Beijing Olympics finished off the podium Sunday, with one coming agonizingly close and another nowhere near.
Quebec City snowboarder Laurie Blouin gave it all she had in the women’s slopestyle event but couldn’t crack the top three of a highly competitive field.
Calgary speedskater Ted-Jan Bloemen looked like he was going to press for a medal in the 5,000 metres, but instead faded fast over the second half of his race and finished well of the mark in 10th.
Both Blouin and Bloemen were sliver medallists in the same events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, but couldn’t produce a second straight multi-medal day for Canada in Beijing.
Blouin sat fifth heading into her third and final run. While she closed with by far her best performance of the day, a crisp and clean run that scored her an impressive 81.41 points, she was only able to move up one spot in the standings.
On a day when high scores were the norm, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott saved the best for last with a scorching third run that earned her a whopping 92.88 points — and New Zealand’s first-ever Winter Olympic gold medal.
Julia Marino of the United States took silver and Australia’s Tess Coady claimed bronze.
Blouin said that Sunday’s beautiful conditions in the mountains 200 kilometres northwest of Beijing meant that everyone had to go all out on the Great Wall of China-themed course.
“Today everyone was just going crazy, you couldn’t go safe today,” she said. “Today was the best day, honestly, like no wind and blue skies, like perfect.”
Canada will get another shot at a snowboard slopestyle medal in Monday’s men’s event.
Meanwhile in the men’s competition, Regina’s Mark McMorris finished second in qualifying on Sunday, with an impressive score of 83.30 points in his second run carrying him through to the final.
China’s Su Yiming had the best overall score at 86.80 points.
Sebastian Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., was eighth overall and Max Parrot of Bromont, Que., was 10th.
Bloemen, the former world record in the 5,000, had the fastest split after 1,400 metres before a series of slow laps took him out of contention. That wasn’t going to cut it on a day the Olympic record was broken twice.
“It took a long time preparing for this race and I did everything I could. I had a really good plan,” he said. “I went out exactly according to the plan. I was going really well for the first four laps, and then things just started to unravel for me. I have no explanation for it right now. “
World-record holder Nils van der Poel of Sweden skated in the final pair and finished first in a time of six minutes 1.56 seconds, breaking the Olympic record set earlier in the competition by Patrick Roest of the Netherlands.
Skating in the fifth pair, Roest briefly held the record after his time of 6:09.31 beat the mark set by Dutch legend Sven Kramer four years ago in Pyeongchang.
Hallgeir Engebraaten of Norway took bronze.
Bloemen still has a chance to add to his medal collection when he skates in the 10k on Friday. He’s the reigning Olympic champion in the event.
Earlier, a fabulous Olympic debut by 18-year-old Madeline Schizas rescued Canada’s slim chances in the figure skating team event.
Starting the day in sixth out of 10 countries, and needing to finish top-five to advance to final round of free skates, the 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont., skated a virtually flawless short program to “Dulcea Si Tandra Mea Fiara” to finish third with 69.60 points.
“(The Olympics) have been a real goal of mine, especially this past season, knowing that … I could quite possibly qualify,” said Schizas, who captured her first Canadian title last month. “And so just getting out there, it made me so happy and so excited to represent my country and I was really happy I represented them well.”
Toronto’s Roman Sadovsky had a shaky men’s free program, finishing fifth of five skaters, but Canada remained in fourth heading into Monday’s final free programs — pairs, ice dance, and women.
In mixed curling, John Morris of Canmore, Alta., and Ottawa’s Rachel Homan improved their record to 5-2 with a nail-biting 7-5 win over the Czech Republic.
Canada gave up a steal of one to the Czechs in the seventh end to have the hammer going into the eighth. The risky strategy paid off after the Canadians scored two in the eighth to force an extra end, then stole two more to win.
Canada was scheduled to face Australia later Sunday in a showdown that almost didn’t happen. The Aussies had planned to pull out of the tournament when team member Tahli Gill tested positive for COVID-19, but returned to competition after an urgent meeting of the Medical Expert Panel in Beijing.
The MEP examined Gill’s CT values following PCR testing over the past 24 hours and determined that they fell into an acceptable range, the Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Canada’s men’s downhill skiers will have to wait a day to race for a medal after their event was postponed a day due to high winds at the course known as The Rock.
Toronto’s Jack Crawford and Broderick Thompson and Brodie Seger of Whistler, B.C., will represent Canada in men’s downhill. Thompson was third-fastest in the second downhill training run, and Crawford was fifth in the first.
The Canadian Press