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The Ottawa Citizen
February 25, 2010

Canadian women lead the charge

It was vintage Clara Hughes on Wednesday, as the 37-year-old speedskater said goodbye to the Games with a bronze in the 5,000 metres. It was her sixth career Olympic medal, tying her with Cindy Klassen as the most decorated Canadian ever at the Olympic Games.

Here comes the medal avalanche.

In less than four hours on Wednesday, Day 13 of the 2010 Winter Games, Canadian athletes celebrated their first multi-medal day in Vancouver as female athletes used their long blades on two separate speedskating ovals and an icy serpentine bobsled track to secure one gold, two silver and one bronze.

The women's bobsled program had a milestone night at the Whistler Sliding Centre, winning gold and silver medals for the first two medals in its Olympic history.

Kaillie Humphries of Calgary and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., broke the track record three times en route to the gold in a four-run time of three minutes, 32.28 seconds.

Helen Upperton of Calgary and Shelley-Ann Brown of Pickering, Ont., moved up two positions in their final two runs to capture the silver medal in 3:33.13.

The bobsled victory gives Canada seven gold medals, tied for first place with seven along with the United States and Germany.

It was the 10th time in Olympic history Canada has had two entries on the same medal podium, but the first in the 2010 Games. It was the fifth time for a gold-silver finish. It happened three times in Turin in2006.

Long-track speedskating legend Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., finished her illustrious Summer and Winter Olympic career by winning the bronze medal in the women's 5,000 metres, joining teammate Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg as Canada's most decorated Olympian with six career medals.

The women's short-track speedskating team of Jessica Gregg of Edmonton, Kalyna Roberge of St. Etienne de Lauzon, Que., Marianne St. Gelais of St. Felicien, Que., and Tania Vicent of Laval finished third in the race, but was awarded the silver medal when four-time defending champion South Korea was disqualified for an illegal pass in the women's 3,000-metre relay. It was a second silver for St. Gelais, who won in the 500 metres last week.

After plodding along winning an average of almost one medal a day in the first 12 days of competition, the speedskaters and bobsledders pushed the Canadian medal total to 15 from 11 and put some substance behind the Sunday assessment by Canadian Olympic Committee official Caroline Assalian that "there are great, great things to come" in the final days of the Games.

The quadruple-medal performance was one of the most notable days in Canadian Winter Olympic history. Day 13 of the Winter Games traditionally has been one of medal madness as Canadian athletes had won a total of 13 at five Games before Wednesday's competition. Day 8 previously had been the best day for Canadians with 15 medals.

In the past, Canada has had one five-medal day at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games on Day 16. The other three four-medal days were recorded at the 2006 Torino Olympics.

Canada is fourth in the medal standings with one final to come Wednesday night, having earned seven gold, six silver and two bronze for 15 medals. Canada, the United States and Germany are ranked No. 1 in gold medals at seven.

Canadian women have won 11 medals, while the men only have three. The other medal was shared by the ice dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Canada could continue to zoom up the medal table today with another multi-medal day.

The Canadian women's hockey team will either defend its gold or accept silver, after playing the United States in the women's hockey final. Joannie Rochette of Montreal tries to become the first woman since Elizabeth Manley's silver in 1988 to win a figure skating medal in women's singles. Steve Omischl of North Bay, Kyle Nissen of Calgary and Warren Shouldice of Calgary will reach high for the medals in freestyle men's aerials.

Humphries and Moyse, who raced as Upperton's brakeperson and was fourth in 2006, won all four heats and set three track records.

They won the third run and improved their lead to 0.57 seconds from 0.13 over Erin Pac and Elana Meyers, the No. 2 United States sled.

Upperton and Brown were third in the third run and eased up one position to third with a 0.02 advantage over Germany No. 2 Cathleen Martini and Romy Logsch.

Five-time Olympian Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., signed off on her distinguished Games career at age 37 by seeing her technically perfect technique and rhythm carry her to her fastest time ever and the bronze medal in the women's 5,000 metres.

By winning her sixth all-time medal, Hughes matches Klassen's half dozen medals and can be considered Canada's greatest Olympian, whether Winter or Summer.

Hughes has won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals in three Winter Olympics, and took two cycling bronze medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Klassen has collected one gold, two silver and three bronze in speed skating.

Hughes held the lead until the final two of eight pairings with a time of six minutes, 55.73 seconds, which was only the third time she had eclipsed seven minutes in 18 races over 5,000 metres.

"It's such an amazing feeling," said Hughes, who won Olympic gold in 2006 and bronze in 2002. "I came in to skate two of my best races.

"I don't think about medals or Own the Podium. I don't think in terms of medals, but rather excellence. That's what I wanted and I did it in my last race."


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