Saturday, February 21, 1998
Productive Olympics full of disappointment
The Canadian team captured a best-ever 15 medals and six gold, surpassing the 13 medals and three golds earned at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Canada even finished ahead of the United States (13, 6-3-4) for the first time in Olympic history.
But there was just silver for the women's hockey team, just silver for the men's curling team and no medals at all either for the vaunted men's hockey squad or the freestyle skiers.
"If you would've told me that before the Games, I would've asked what condition you were in," Canadian chef de mission Brian Wakelin said Saturday night at the Canadian Olympic Association's wrapup news conference. "I'm as surprised as you people (media) are."
The speed skaters were by far Canada's most dominant athletes, accounting for nine medals, including three gold. Long-track star Catriona Le May Doan of Saskatoon led the way with a gold and bronze, and was named the team's flagbearer at the closing cermony.
Annie Perreault of Rock Forrest, Que., won the women's 500-metre short-track speed skating gold, and the men's 5,000-metre relay team of Eric Bedard of Ste-Thecle, Que., Derrick Campbell of Cambridge, Ont., Francois Drolet of Quebec and Marc Gagnon of Chicoutimi, Que., also struck gold.
Pierre Lueders of Edmonton and Dave MacEachern of Charlottetown ended a decades-long dominance by Europeans in the two-man bobsled event by tying the top Italians for the gold medal.
Snowboarding and curling made their Olympic debuts.
Ross Rebagliati of Whistler, B.C., won the men's snowboarding giant slalom, lost his medal after testing positive for traces of marijuana and then got it back when the Court of Arbitration for Sports ruled the international ski federation had no agreement with the International Olympic Committee covering marijuana -- and thus no right to disqualify Rebagliati.
Sandra Schmirler's rink from Regina, also comprising third Jan Betker, second Joan McCusker, lead Marcia Gudereit and spare Atina Ford, took the women's curling gold.
But the Mike Harris rink from Toronto played their worst game of the competition in the gold-medal match against Switzerland -- and lost.
Elvis Stojko of Richmond Hill, Ont., competed in the free skate with a pinched nerve and muscle pull in his groin and produced a clean, silver-medal winning performance in the men's figure skating.
World champion Jean-Luc Brassard of Grand-Ile, Que., perhaps caught in a jinx that hits Canada's flagbearers in the opening ceremonies, failed to win a medal in men's freestyle skiing moguls.
But, the biggest disappointments were the anticipated golds in hockey that never came.
The women's hockey squad, which had won all four prior world championships, lost a 3-1 decision to the United States in the final -- a game the Americans dominated.
And the men's hockey team -- with 23 NHL players -- lost first a 2-1 shootout decision to the Czech Republic in the semifinals and then 3-2 in the bronze-medal game to Finland, which was using a backup goaltender and was missing star player Teemu Selanne.
For Canada, that was the bitterest of moments in its most successful of Games.