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01 March 2024

Emotions run high for Canada

Canada's Joannie Rochette performs in the women's figure skating event. (SUPPLIED)

By Reuters

Canada's Olympic inquisition was put on ice after an extraordinary day of raw emotion at the Vancouver Winter Games on Tuesday.

The planned inquiry into the host-nation's failure to win an avalanche of gold medals was suddenly forgotten as Canadians experienced joy and relief tinged by grief.

Ashleigh McIvor triumphed in the women's ski cross to give Canada gold but her victory was overshadowed by the relief of the men's ice hockey team surviving to fight another day and the brave performance of figure skater Joannie Rochette.

Still grieving after the sudden death of her mother two days ago, Rochette kept her emotions in check long enough to dazzle the crowd with a short programme that left her in third place behind South Korean Kim Yuna and Japan's Mao Asada at the halfway stage of the ice skating competition.

The Canadian was unable to contain herself when the audience instinctively leapt to their feet to applaud her, as she was left sobbing uncontrollably.

Unable to speak with media, Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk issued a brief statement on her behalf.

"Words cannot describe [how I feel]," she said "[It was a] very nice warm welcome, hard to handle but I appreciate the support. I'll remember this forever."

It was not a day Dutchman Sven Kramer will remember fondly after a blunder by his coach robbed him of the 10,000 metres speedskating gold medal after an inexplicable error. The world record-holder and white-hot favourite celebrated victory but within seconds of crossing the line he threw his glasses down and kicked the track in fury and frustration after learning he had been disqualified for crossing into the wrong lane – with the fault apparently lying with his coach.

Kramer, who cruised to the 5,000m gold earlier in the Games, sat despondently on a bench, his head down and elbows on his knees before telling reporters: "I am furious. It's a matter of concentration. Not a concentration failure on my side.

"It was the best 10,000m I have ever skated. I am mad with the coach and I will have a conversation with him."

It was a rough day for a number of favourites including Austria's once-dominant Alpine skiers who again missed out on the medals on the Whistler slopes.

As snow and rain swept Olympic venues, Carlo Janka became the first Swiss man to win the Olympic giant slalom gold since 1984 as neighbours Austria, who had dominated the discipline at the last three Olympics, missed out on the podium altogether.

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud took silver and compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal bagged his third medal of the Games by finishing third. American Bode Miller's hopes of a fourth medal in four races ended in disappointment when he skied out in the first run.

Canada collected their sixth gold of the Games through McIvor after one of her main rivals, Ophelie David of France, crashed out in an earlier round.

Gold was also decided in the Nordic combined team 4x5 kilometre relay with Austria retaining the title to provide some consolation for their flop in the Alpine disciplines.

Russia had taken the first of the day's five golds in the women's 4x6km biathlon relay, overcoming the German favourites who competed without exhausted double gold medal winner Magdalena Neuner. Germany settled for bronze behind France.

McIvor's win put Canada into a respectable fourth place in the medals table although their failure to win more has already prompted calls for an investigation.

The US head the standings with seven golds and 26 medals overall. Germany also have seven golds and 23 medals in total.

Canada, Norway and Switzerland all have six golds ahead of South Korea on five and Austria with four.

The medals in men's ice hockey will not be decided until Sunday but Canada at least stayed in the hunt with a confidence-boosting 8-2 win over Germany.

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