Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics - Day 3 review
After Jennifer Heil was expected to win Canada’s first Olympic gold on home soil in the ladies’ moguls on Sunday, it turned out to be the men’s moguls which produced the elusive medal, after a thrilling final saw Alexandre Bilodeau claim top spot on the podium.
With the penultimate run, Bilodeau was looking to overtake defending champion Dale Begg-Smith for the lead. The pair received almost identical scores from the turns and air judges, but the Canadian tore down the course in 23.17 seconds, to Smith’s 23.72, which was enough to put him into the lead by 0.17 points.
Bilodeau and the partisan crowd had to hold their breath whilst the final runner, Guilbaut Colas completed the field. The Frenchman completed the course in the quickest time, but a poor second jump sealed his fate. He could finish no better than sixth, a whole point behind Bilodeau, amidst wild celebrations when his score appeared on the scoreboard.
American Bryon Wilson finished in the bronze medal position, with two other Canadian athletes just missing out on the medals in fourth and fifth place. Team Canada will be hoping this victory can spur them on to further gold, following this first success of their pre-Olympic “Own The Podium” training program.
The Czech Republic sealed their first gold of the Games, with Martina Sablikova claiming victory in the ladies’ 3000m speed skating in Richmond. Stephanie Beckert of Germany took silver, with Canada’s Kristina Groves completing the podium.
The rest of the day’s medal action all happened up at Whistler, with the French team having a very good day. They picked up the first gold of the day in the men’s biathlon 10km sprint, with Vincent Jay sealing a pretty comfortable victory, after being in contention for the entire race. Jason Lamy Chappuis had to make much more of a fight for his gold medal in the men’s Nordic Combined.
In a sport that has been consistently dominated by European athletes, the United States had never won a medal of any colour in the discipline at any previous Olympics. As Johnny Spillane headed down the home straight, it looked like he would not only put that right, but do so in style with a gold medal.
Just yards from the line, an exhausted Spillane was passed by Chappuis, pipping the American to the gold by just four-tenths of a second. Spillane was extremely gracious in such heartbreaking defeat, saying he was so tired by that point, he was just glad he was able to hang on for the silver.
After an emotional few days, the men’s luge competition also concluded up at Whistler. There was no surprise in the end, as Germany’s Felix Loch who had led after all of the first three runs, took the gold by 0.68 seconds, which may not seem like a lot, but in luge is a huge margin.
His team-mate David Moeller took the silver, with Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler claiming bronze. The medal for the Italian marks the fifth consecutive Games in which he has claimed a medal, the only Italian ever to do so.
Following victories in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Torino in 2006, Zoeggeler was fancied by many to make it a hat-trick of victories. In an interview after the race, he said he felt he was disadvantaged by the changes to the course made since Friday, in particular the shorter distance.
His thoughts were echoed by a number of other athletes. Whilst they could completely understand why the changes were made, they all accept that there will always be risk in what they do, and as elite athletes at the Olympics, they are there to be tested.
Monday’s events get underway at 10am local time, with speed skating and cross country skiing featuring again. For those looking for more high-adrenaline events, the women’s luge and men’s snowboard cross also both get underway on Day four and are certain to deliver that!