Christine de Bruin wore an Olympic medal around her neck for the first time in her career, and the Canadian bobsledder liked the feeling.
“It feels awesome,” she said of the bronze medal she claimed in the Olympic debut of the monobob. “It feels heavy. It’s nice.”
No doubt, the feeling of two medals would be even nicer.
The native of Stony Plain, Alta., picked up Canada’s first sliding medal of the Beijing Olympics on Monday when she raced to third place in the monobob in a time of four minutes 21.03 seconds.
She will have a chance to add to Canada’s coffers in the two-woman event on Saturday. She said the knowledge of the track at Yanqing National Sliding Centre gained during her monobob runs should serve her well.
“It means that I have a really good understanding of the track and with Buj (Kristen Bujnowski), my brakewoman behind me, we have a very competitive push,” de Bruin said.
“Put the two together and we should have a great result.”
Kaillie Humphries, de Bruin’s former teammate, led a one-two punch atop the podium for the United States with a dominating time of 4:19.27. American veteran Elana Meyers Taylor took silver in 4:20.81.
Humphries picked up her fourth Olympic medal. She won two gold and a bronze in the two-woman event as a competitor for Canada before switching to represent the United States after the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Elsewhere on Monday, Canada assured itself of at least one more medal in Beijing with a 10-3 win over Switzerland in the women’s hockey semifinals. The Canadians will face the winner of a later semifinal between the United States and Finland for gold on Thursday.
Canada’s women’s curling team rebounded from a three-game losing streak with an 11-5 win over Russia and looked to even its record with a win over Britain later Monday. The men’s curling squad improved to 4-2 with a comfortable 7-3 win over Italy. And the nation’s snowboarders look poised to add to their success after a total of five athletes qualified for the finals of the men’s and women’s big air events.
Max Parrot will be looking to follow up his gold-medal slopestyle performance from last week with a similar result in the big air and appeared on form after topping the men’s qualifier.
Parrot said he was “stoked” by his performance, despite making a mistake on his third jump, but said his focus was firmly on the future.
“I’ve got my ticket for the final so really just focusing on that,” he said. “That’s what’s important. It’s not to finish first in (qualifiers) or second or third, it’s to make it to the final.”
Teammate Mark McMorris was eighth and Darcy Sharpe finished 12th to secure the last spot in the final. Sebastien Toutant, the event’s defending champion, fell twice and did not advance.
On the women’s side, Laurie Blouin qualified fourth for the big air final and Jasmine Baird was 10th.
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Asselin also qualified for the finals of the women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle. Asselin finished in 11th after scoring a 64.68 on her first run at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou. Megan Oldham, who finished fourth in the big air, did not advance to the final.
Humphries’ first gold medal sliding for the United States came after a trying four years that included an acrimonious split with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton — the sport’s national governing body.
Humphries filed a harassment complaint with the organization in 2018, claiming she was “repeatedly and horribly verbally and mentally abused by the head coach.”
Todd Hays, who led the U.S. women’s team from 2011 to 2014, has been Canada’s head coach since 2017.
The allegations remain under investigation.
Asked if she had any words for Canada, Humphries started off by saying “not really” before continuing.
“I’m still Canadian,” said the dual citizen. “I will never forget my time as part of Canada, and I am so proud and honoured to still consider myself Canadian. I am also American. To me, it’s not a rivalry. I’m not picking and choosing one country over the other.
“Canada will always hold my past. Every single time I represented Team Canada, I did so with my heart and soul. The U.S.A. has my future.”
Toronto’s Cynthia Appiah was eighth on the 1,615-metre, 16-turn track located about 90 kilometres north of Beijing.
In women’s hockey, team captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice and Claire Thompson had a goal and two assists as the Canadians set a new Olympic tournament record with 54 goals.
“I know when you look at the Olympic scores, you kind of think it has been an easy road for us, but that could not have been any further from the truth,” forward Sarah Nurse said.
“We want to generate a ton of offence but we know we have to clean things up defensively. I know going into the championship (game) we will have to tighten some things up defensively.”
In figure skating, Toronto’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., finished a disappointing seventh in ice dance in what could be their last Olympics.
Gilles and Poirier botched a rotational lift, which was reflected in their score of 204.78.
Gilles fought back tears as she tried to explain what went wrong. Poirier said to her gently: “You were amazing.”
They could still capture a medal in the team event, pending the decision on the Russian team. Canada was fourth in the team event, but Russia, which was first, could be disqualified after it was revealed that 15-year-old superstar Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned heart drug.
Valieva was cleared to continue competing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday, but any medal she wins could still be taken from her.
Those issues will be dealt with in a separate, longer-term investigation of the positive doping test that will be led by the Russian anti-doping agency.
The International Olympic Committee said Monday afternoon that if Valieva finishes in the top three, there will be no medal ceremony during the Games. There will also be no ceremony for the team event.
Canada’s Marion Thenault was seventh in women’s aerials. Thenault, from Sherbrooke, Que., just missed out on the superfinal with a 91.29 on her second run of the final. Thenault was part of the team that won the bronze medal in the mixed team aerials event.
China’s Xu Mengtao won gold with 108.61 points in the superfinal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2022.