Sunday, February 22, 1998
Gold comes with silver lining
The gold medal in the men's 5,000-metre short-track speed skating relay -- an event where the skaters trade off by giving each other a push on the butt -- gave Canada a clear-cut victory over the U.S. in the medal race for the first time in Olympic history.
With only the gold-medal hockey game and the men's 50-kilometre cross-country ski race remaining on the Olympic schedule -- events neither North American nation had any chance in -- Canada held a 15-13 medal lead over the U.S.
But if the relay men hadn't won, the Americans would have finished ahead in the gold count, 6-5.
"If we did that, I'm really happy, because, like all sports, we have a really big rivalry," Canadian short-track star Marc Gagnon said.
The relay gold also guaranteed Canada fourth spot among all nations here.
Yesterday's victory was sweet redemption for Gagnon, the defending world champion in the 1,500 metres, who bombed out in the individual events at these Games. Gagnon, 22, held the world record in both the 500 and 1,000 metres but was disqualified in the 1,000 quarter-finals Tuesday and fell earlier yesterday in the men's 500 final.
The Chicoutimi native was ecstatic when he crossed the finish line yesterday at the White Ring Arena. Afterward, the four Canadians -- Gagnon, Francois Drolet of Quebec City, Eric Bedard of St. Thecle, Que., and Derrick Campbell of Cambridge, Ont. -- came together in a celebratory embrace and skated around the ice waving a couple Canadian flags.
"You can't dream about a feeling that good," said Gagnon, who pumped his arm in celebration after hitting the line. "I think we showed the people here that we're still the best (short-track) team in the world."
The relay team's path to the gold was paved with flying Italians, Chinese and Koreans. With 19 laps to go, the Italian team fell out of contention on an inadvertent slip. With Canada in the lead and the powerful Chinese and Korean squads charging hard, a Chinese skater suddenly slipped with about about 12 laps to go, taking the rival Korean out with him.
From then on it was smooth sailing for the Canadian team. The French-Canadian-dominated short-track squad experienced its share of bad luck, too, at these Games but managed to capture two gold and two bronze medals -- the best showing of any Canadian team.
"This leaves a good taste in our mouths about these Olympics and hopefully for Canada, too," Campbell said.