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Women’s pursuit speedskating team gives Canada elusive second Olympic gold

Eight days later, Canada steps back up to the top of the podium in Biejing
Valerie Maltais (right) Ivanie Blondin (left) and Isabelle Weidemann of Canada celebrate with their gold medals during a medal ceremony for the speedskating women’s team pursuit at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jae C. Hong

Canada’s Olympians have made many trips to the podium at the Beijing Winter Games, but heading into Tuesday, only one of those included a stop on the top step.

After an eight-day wait, Canada has claimed its elusive second gold medal courtesy of the women’s pursuit speedskating team.

Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., and Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa combined forces to defeat Japan in the event’s “A” final in an Olympic-record time of two minutes 53.44 seconds.

Japan had a slight lead entering the final turn, but Nana Takagi went down on the final turn and crashed into the padding, allowing Canada to cruise to the win.

Weidemann now has won a medal of every colour in Beijing. She won silver in the 5,000 metres and bronze in the 3,000.

“We’re giving everything we have,” the Ottawa native said. “We’re all going to the blackout zone. We were just going to cross the line having spent it all.

“It took us a while at the end to figure it all out.”

Takagi broke into tears after getting up to finish the race, and was consoled by teammates Ayano Sato and Miho Takagi, her sister.

The final time isn’t recorded until all skaters cross the line, giving the Canadians an 11.03-second margin of victory.

“The last part of the race is our strongest,” Blondin said. “I think that we would have caught them.”

Weidemann became the second Canadian long-track speedskater to win more than two medals at a single Games. Cindy Klassen won five medals in Turin.

Maltais, for her part, became the third athlete in Winter Games history to win Olympic medals in short-track and long-track events, the Canadian Olympic Committee said.

While the golds have been hard to come by for Canada, it had 17 total medals (two gold, four silver, 11 bronze) heading into Tuesday’s late events.

Canada’s first gold medal came on Feb. 7, when snowboarder Max Parrot won the men’s slopestyle event. While Parrot couldn’t duplicate his podium-topping performance in Tuesday’s men’s big air, he did take bronze in the event to give Canada its sixth snowboard medal.

Earlier Tuesday, Jasmine Baird of Georgetown, Ont., was seventh and Quebec City’s Laurie Blouin was eighth in the women’s event.

In men’s curling, Brad Gushue’s tap back against two in the 10th end gave Canada a 10-8 win over China.

“I was just trying to focus on what I needed to do,” Gushue said. “Throw the right way, hit the broom. It was not a very difficult shot. So I was just trying to make sure I threw proper.”

Canada (5-2) won its third game in a row and sat in third place in the round-robin standings heading into a game against Russia later Tuesday. The top four teams after the round robin advance to the semifinals.

It was a tough go in the women’s freeski slopestyle for Olivia Asselin. The 17-year-old from Quebec City completed her first run with a minimal number of tricks before withdrawing from the competition.

Freestyle Canada chief executive officer Peter Judge said Asselin tweaked her knee in training and was also struggling psychologically with the pressures of competing at an Olympics.

“She’s pretty devastated. I think as anybody would be, you know?” said Judge. “You get here, you want to do your best, you know your friends and family are there, you know your country is supporting you. You want to do as best as possible.

“She’s pretty gutted, but she’s a tough little girl and I think she’ll bounce back.”

Max Moffatt will be the lone Canadian competing in the men’s freestyle ski slopestyle final after finishing 11th in the qualifier on Tuesday.

Moffatt won a slopestyle silver at the X Games earlier this year.

In the men’s 4x7.5-kilometre biathlon relay, Canada finished sixth for its best-ever result in the event. Scott Gow, Christian Gow and Adam Runnalls, all from Calgary, and Jules Burnotte of Sherbrooke, Que., finished one minute 56.3 seconds behind gold medallist Norway.

In the women’s downhill, Marie-Michèle Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., placed eighth and Roni Remme of Collingwood, Ont., was 24th.

“I’m happy and I’m proud of my performance, but I’m confused why I didn’t get a medal today,” said Gagnon.

Madeline Schizas, who made an impressive debut last week in the figure skating team event, was unable to duplicate her clean skate and ended with a 60.53 in the women’s short program. The result left her sitting out of the top 10 midway through the event, but will qualify her for the free skate.

In men’s freestyle skiing aerials, Canadian Miha Fontaine just missed qualifying for the final round. Fontaine, who was part of the team that won bronze in the mixed team aerials, finished in 13th, less than half a point back from the final spot. Emile Nadeau and Lewis Irving finished 17th and 23rd, respectively.

—The Canadian Press

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