Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics — Day 15 review

By Paul Hurst
Nicolien Sauerbrei

Nicolien Sauerbrei (Photo: Soenar Chamid)

Hailing from a country whose highest point is barely 1000ft above sea level wouldn’t seem to be ideal for a snowboarder. However it proved no impediment for Nicolien Sauerbriej of the Netherlands, as she claimed gold in the Ladies’ Parallel Giant Slalom.

Amidst terrible conditions on Cypress Mountain, Sauerbriej beat Russia’s Ekaterina Ilyukhina in the Big Final to win gold. Marion Keriener of Austria won the Small Final to take the bronze.

Heavy rain and fog made for a very difficult day for the athletes with many struggling to stay upright on the soft snow. Pre-race favourite Amelie Kober blew her medal hopes as she fell in her quarter-final.

Ilyukhina held a slender lead after the first run, but blew it almost immediately out of the gate on the second run, leaving Sauerbriej to hold her nerve as she cruised to the gold by 0.23 seconds. The victory gives the Dutch their first Winter Olympic gold medal outside of skating.

Perhaps the biggest meltdown of the Games came last night at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, as Canada inexplicably blew their chance at the Curling gold medal.

Leading Sweden 6-4 in the tenth end, Canadian skip Cheryl Bernard had a simple shot to clear out a Swedish stone and win the match. She made a mess of it, allowing the Swedes to score two, and take it to extra ends. In the first extra end, Bernard couldn’t clear out the Swedish stones with her final shot, handing the Swedes the victory.

Bernard is likely to become the butt of a few jokes over the coming days, though there is no shame in their silver – these Games were the first time this team had represented Canada at any level. Nevertheless, they, and Bernard in particular, will always remember just how close they came to being Olympic Champions.

Norway won yet another gold at Whistler, as they skied and shot their way to victory in the Men’s Biathlon 4 x 7.5km Relay. Austria won silver, with Russia in third for the bronze. In a physically demanding sport, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway has now won an incredible 11 Olympic medals, 6 of them gold.

After two runs at the Sliding Centre, USA 1 lead the field in the Four-Man Bobsleigh. The Steven Holcomb piloted sled set the track record with their first run, and then improved it with their second, to leave them 0.40 seconds ahead of Lyndon Rush and Canada 1.

Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske, looking for another gold to go with their Two-Man title, form half of the load on Germany 1, in third place overnight.

Britain is effectively out of the competition, after GB 1 crashed on the second run. The sled, on its side, crossed the line giving John Jackson’s team an official time, but even if they decide to continue tomorrow they have no hope of a medal. They weren’t the only ones who finished the race on their side, as Japan and Russia were also among six teams who crashed on Friday.

In a race also containing the world record holder, and the defending Olympic champion, world champion Charles Hamelin came out on top to give Canada their ninth gold of the Games, with victory in the Men’s 500m Short Track.

The race was uneventful until the final corner, which left a mess for the judges to sort out. The leader Sung-Si Bak fell, almost taking Hamelin down with him. He crossed the line in third, on his backside, behind Hamelin, and Anton Apolo Ohno in second.

Francois Louis-Tremblay had also fallen on the final corner. The replay clearly showed Ohno putting his hand on Tremblay, causing his fall. The judges subsequently disqualified the defending champion, giving the bronze to Tremblay, adding another medal to Canada’s tally.

The gold finally brought some joy to Hamelin, who has had a disappointing couple of weeks at these Games until this race. Given that it isn’t often that you can fall as a result of your own mistake, and still finish second, Sung Si-Bak should be relatively happy with his silver for South Korea.

Canada then became the first go into double figures under the gold medal column, with Hamelin and Tremblay part of the Canadian foursome who pulled off victory in the Men’s 5000m Relay, once again ahead of Korea and the United States.

In the Ladies’ 1000m Wang Meng of China won the gold, ahead of America’s Katherine Reutter and South Korea’s Park Seung-Hi.

In the final race of the Ladies’ Alpine Skiing program, Maria Reisch won her second gold of the Games in the Slalom. In her only event of the Games, Marlies Schild of Austria won silver, and Czech Sarka Zahrobska took bronze.

Sunday’s Men’s Ice Hockey Final will indeed be the dream Canada vs USA match-up. The Canadians, however, were hoping for an easier path there, and having to hang on against Slovakia wasn’t part of that plan.

They took a 3-0 lead into the third period, but the game ended in a tense finish as the Slovaks pulled two goals back. The USA had a much easier time of it, as they blitzed Finland with 6 goals in the first 13 minutes, more than enough to seal their berth in the final with a 6-1 victory.

Most of the venues close for Olympic business on Saturday. Cypress Mountain action concludes with the Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom from 10am (6pm UK). Whistler Creekside closes with the Men’s version of the Slalom with action also starting at 10am.

Canada go for gold in the Men’s Curling final against Norway down in the city, and the Sliding Centre’s last event will be the medal runs in the 4-Man Bobsleigh, starting at 1pm (9pm UK).

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