Team Canada enjoyed its most successful day so far at the Beijing Winter Olympics with a four-medal haul on Thursday.
Snowboarder Eliot Grondin and speedskater Isabelle Weidemann each collected silver medals, while alpine skier Jack Crawford and Canada’s mixed aerials team each nabbed bronze.
Canada, with 12 total medals, now sits tied with Norway for second on the Olympic medal table. Austria leads with 13.
Grondin had not been challenged all day.
The Canadian cruised through every race on his way to the men’s snowboard cross final in Zhangjiakou at the Beijing Olympics, where he fought hard for a silver medal that was a photo finish away from being gold.
Grondin of Ste-Marie, Que., crossed the finish line 0.02 seconds behind Austria’s Alessandro Hämmerle for Canada’s second medal Thursday.
Just a few minutes earlier – and a few hundred kilometres away in the Yanqing zone – Jack Crawford held on tight for third place in the alpine combined.
The 20-year-old Grondin led every race heading into the big final. Then it was his turn to play catch-up. He stuck close to Hämmerle from start to finish, never letting the Austrian break away.
It stayed that way until Grondin plunged to the finish line for the nail-biting finish. After a few tense moments, the Canadian’s silver medal was confirmed.
“I kind of knew I was going to be silver, but I tried everything I had,” he said.
“Just to share the podium with Alessandro is amazing.”
It was Canada’s fourth medal in snowboarding at Beijing and second in as many days after Meryeta O’Dine captured bronze in the women’s snowboard cross on Wednesday.
On the slopes, Crawford finished third with a total time of two minutes 32.11 seconds for Canada’s first-ever medal in alpine combined.
The Toronto native entered the slalom portion of the event in second place after going 1:43.14 in the downhill. He then did a 48.97 in the slalom.
Johannes Strolz of Austria won gold (2:31.43) while Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway took home the silver (2:32.02).
The 24-year-old Crawford came close to a medal on two previous occasions in Beijing. He was sixth in the men’s super-G on Tuesday and fourth in the men’s downhill event on Monday, finishing seven-hundredths of a second behind the bronze medallist.
Crawford says recent changes to his skiing style and overall approach have given him more of a winner’s mindset.
“I’ve taken on this new mentality of ‘how do I put myself in a position to win every single race,’” he said. “And even if you’re not winning, even if you’re not coming in the top 10, if you have that mentality and you have that ability to push and put yourself in the position where you could win, it’s probably going to be a good day regardless of where you end up.
Canada’s mixed aerials team picked up Canada’s third medal of the day — and second bronze — at the Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park.
The United States claimed gold with 338.34 points while China settled for silver with 324.22.
The Canadian trio of Marion Thenault of Sherbrooke, Que.; Miha Fontaine of Lac-Beauport, Que.; and Quebec City’s Lewis Irving finished the final with a total of 290.98 points to edge out fourth-place Switzerland, which totalled 276.01 points.
Irving, who took the team’s third and final jump, gave credit to his teammates for even having the Canadians in a position to win a medal.
“They did great,” said Irving. “Miha, I watched him go and put it down. So it was up to me and it’s just amazing to be able to support a team like that and get it done.”
Flavie Aumond and Émile Nadeau also competed for Canada in the qualifying rounds of the freestyle skiing event, which was making its Olympic debut at the Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park.
It is Canada’s first aerials medal since the 2002 Salt Lake Games, when Veronica Brenner won silver and Deidra Dionne claimed bronze in the women’s event.
Meanwhile, Weidemann won silver in the women’s 5,000 metres.
The 26-year-old from Ottawa collected her second medal in Beijing after a bronze in the 3,000 metres.
The Canadian posted a time of six minutes 48.18 seconds skating in the penultimate pairing.
Dutchwoman Irene Schouten then beat Weidemann’s time for gold in an Olympic-record 6:43.51.
“I really emptied the tank today. I gave all my energy. So I looked up (but) I couldn’t really see the time. I haven’t skated that deep into the hole in a while. And I was just trying to stay on my feet,” Weidemann said of her effort.
On the ice, Ben Street had a goal and an assist as Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team stormed out of the gate early before cruising to a 5-1 victory over Germany on Thursday at the Beijing Games.
Alex Grant, Daniel Winnik, Maxim Noreau and Jordan Weal also scored for Canada while goaltender Edward Pasquale made 23 saves.
Canadian skip Jennifer Jones opened the women’s curling round-robin schedule Thursday night with a 12-7 victory over South Korea’s EunJung Kim at the Ice Cube.
Jones iced the win with a steal of two in the 10th end.
“That’s typical Team Jones fashion I think,” said vice Kaitlyn Lawes. “Usually we bring it down to the wire, so what a way to start the Olympics.”
On the men’s side, Canada’s Brad Gushue improved to 2-0 by downing Norway’s Steffen Walstad 6-5 in men’s round-robin play.
At the Capital Indoor Stadium, Canada’s Keegan Messing, who arrived a week late to the Games after a positive COVID-19 test, finished 11th in men’s singles figure skating amid perhaps the finest Olympic field ever assembled.
Messing’s Olympic story wasn’t what he’d hoped to write. He missed the team event entirely. And in his free program, he downgraded one of his two quadruple jumps to a triple, a costly mistake in a field full of big jumpers that he wishes he could have back.
Still, competing in Beijing at all felt like a victory.
“I’m just happy to be here. I’ve got the biggest smile on my face,” Messing said through his face mask. “And I feel full. It’s everything. This is the Olympic dream, I never thought I was going to come twice. And here I am.”
Meanwhile, the drama continued off the ice in figure skating.
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva practised as usual Thursday morning despite reports the 15-year-old had tested positive for a banned heart medication.
If that leads to a disqualification for the gold medal-winning Russians in the team event, fourth-place Canada could be in line to win bronze.
Earlier, Elizabeth Hosking from Longueuil, Que., placed sixth in women’s snowboard halfpipe, improving 13 spots from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. She said getting significantly closer to the podium has just added fuel to her fire.
“It’s a big achievement going to the Olympics, but I guess I’m just a person that is never settled,” said Hosking.
“You know, that’s what fires me. I just want better for myself and better for my competitive career.”
American Chloe Kim successfully defended her Olympic title, throwing down a 94.00 in her first run to win gold. Spain’s Queralt Castellet (90.25) took home the silver and Japan’s Tomita Sena (88.25) finished with bronze.
—The Canadian Press