Canada was still looking for its first medal after Saturday’s competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but big results from the country’s snowboarders, curlers and lugers suggested that a trip to the podium would not be far off.
Canadian athletes came close, but failed to reach the podium on the first day medals were handed out in South Korea. Samuel Girard of Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., finished fourth in the men’s 1,500-metre short-track speedskating event, a solid result for the Olympic rookie.
The finish was more disappointing for four-time Olympic medallist Charles Hamelin of Sainte-Julie, Que., who was disqualified in the final for impeding another skater. Hamelin, participating in his last Games, was the defending Olympic champion in the discipline and was considered one of the country’s early medal favourites.
"When you look at the individual distances on the men’s side, there is not a lot of back-to-back medals," Hamelin said. "It shows how much short track speed skating changes in four years.
"If there is one thing I can be proud of is that I reached the final of the 1,500 meters for a third time in four Games. That is what I will take away from today, but of course I would have preferred a better result."
In long-track speedskating, Ivanie Blondin was in a medal position late into the women’s 3,000 metres before being bumped down to sixth by skaters in the final two pairs.
But Canada’s medal prospects got a huge boost on qualifying for the men’s slopestyle snowboarding event. Max Parrot had the best run of the day as all four Canadians qualified for Saturday’s final.
Meanwhile, Canada’s John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes qualified for the semifinals of the mixed doubles curling event with lopsided wins over Switzerland and the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
And on the sliding track, Calgary’s Sam Edney sat fifth after the first two runs of men’s luge competition.
The Netherlands, which swept the women’s 3,000 podium and Norway lead the overall medal table after Day 1 with four medals apiece. Germany leads all countries with two gold.
Hamelin was initially given sixth position in the men’s 1,500 metre final before being disqualified. He had advanced out of his semifinal by the edge of his skates, edging South Korea’s Yira Seo by just .002 seconds to finish second.
Girard fell in the semifinal after making contact with American J.R. Celski, but moved on when Celski was assessed a penalty and disqualified.
"There were a lot of falls, of overtaking and the risk of falling was high," Girard said. "I stayed alert and I took advantage of a couple of falls (in the final). The finish was super fast."
Lim Hyojun of South Korea won gold, followed by Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands and Semen Elistratov of the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
In women’s short-track, Canada qualified for Tuesday’s 3,000-metre relay final, while Marianne St-Gelais of Saint-Felicien, Que., and Kim Boutin of Sherbrooke, Que., qualified for the quarterfinals in the 500 metres.
In the women’s long-track 3,000 metres, Blondin finished with a time of four minutes 4.14 seconds, 4.93 seconds back of the leader. Teammate Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa was seventh in 4:04.26.
No one had an answer for the Dutch trio that took all three spots on the podium. Carlijn Achtereekte claimed gold, followed by Ireen Wust and Antoinette De Jong.
"It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing and I can’t really explain the Dutch sweep again," Blondin said. "It happened in Sochi and it happened now and we haven’t seen it really for four years. Explanation? I have no idea.
"I didn’t have a flat race and wanted to have a flat race and didn’t happen."
In snowboarding, Parrot, from Bromont, Que., earned 87.36 points in his second run to take top spot in the second heat.
Regina’s Mark McMorris held first place until Parrot surpassed him. McMorris is competing less than a year after suffering numerous serious injuries in a backcountry crash. He qualified with a second-run score of 86.83 points.
Sebastian Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., was third in the first heat, earning 78.01 points in his first run. Tyler Nicholson of North Bay, Ont., was fifth in the second heat with 79.21 points.
The top six scores from the two heats advanced to Sunday’s final.
On the women’s side, Laurie Blouin of Stoneham, Que., will be re-evaluated by team medical staff a day after a nasty training fall.
The reigning world champion in slopestyle fell heavily at Phoenix Snow Park on Friday when her board got stuck in a crack after she landed a double jump.
A team spokesperson said on Saturday that Blouin may still compete and that she is still recovering from the hard fall.
In mixed doubles curling, Winnipeg’s Lawes and Ottawa’s Morris continued their tear through the round-robin, thumping Switzerland 7-2 before routing the Olympic Athletes from Russia 8-2 to improve to 5-1.
The Canadian pair finishes its round-robin play Sunday against South Korea before playing in the semifinals on Monday.
"We’re just being patient. We are playing good, consistent curling and grinding out some good wins," Morris said. "It helps when Kaitlyn is making some great last shots."
In luge, Edney used a fast second run to move into fifth. Edney is in the Olympics for the fourth and final time.