Beijing Brief: Legendary Athletes Collect Silver Medals

On Day 10, two of Canada’s most storied Olympians finished their trips to Beijing with silver medals. In so doing, Ian Millar and Karen Cockburn pumped Canada’s medal count to nine.

In the country’s third straight day of multiple medals, Karen Cockburn of Toronto leaped and twisted to a silver medal on the trampoline Monday evening. She was in gold position with a score of 37.00 until China’s He Wenna jumped a flawless routine last at 37.80. She now has a medal in three straight Olympic Games (silver in 2004, bronze in 2000) and has strong claim to be Canada’s greatest gymnast ever.

“It feels amazing; it’s just an honour to compete for Canada for the third time,” Cockburn, who had to come back from torn cartilage in her knee less than a year ago, told CBC afterward. “This medal means so much to me because of everything I went through to get here.”

The silver medal puts Cockburn, 27, in elite company. Only Phil Edwards, Lesley Thompson-Willie, Caroline Brunet, Curt Harnett, Silken Laumann and Clara Hughes have won medals in three separate Games. But only Brunet, a K-1 kayaker, and now Cockburn have earned a medal in three straight Games competing solely as an individual, with no team or relay.

First Jumping Medal Since 1968

Meanwhile, later Monday night, the equestrian show jumping team completed a very successful Olympic Games with a silver medal. Ian Millar, whose nine Olympic appearances tie a world record, finally reached the podium with the help of a skilled jumping team in 2008. Millar (Perth, Ont.), Eric Lamaze (Shomberg, Ont.), Gillian Henselwood (Oxford Mills, Ont.) and Mac Cone (King City, Ont.) rounded out the team.

They had a shot at gold but lost to the United States in a “jump-off” after being tied through two rounds. They were at a disadvantage in the final, with Cone unable to compete because his horse was injured. This is only the second team jumping medal for Canada and the first in 40 years (the last: Mexico 1968 Olympic Games).

On the Track

Priscilla Lopes-Shliep of Whitby, Ont. has now qualified for the 100 m hurdles final on Tuesday. She came third in her semifinal with a time of 12.68 seconds – and heads to the final as the fifth-fastest hurdler. (Amerian Lolo Jones is fastest at 12.43.)

“A few things to work on,” she said modestly. “My start could be better and faster. Now tomorrow after all the work I’ve put in, it will be my time to shine.”

Prince Edward Island sprinter Jared Connaughton, of New Haven, reached the semifinals in the 200 m. He was fifth in his heat in 20.45 seconds and nervously awaited the other heat results. “I don’t like running in lane nine but it’s the Olympics,” he said. “If they asked me to run in the first row of the stands I would.”

There was disappointment for two athletes in the men’s 400 m and 200 m. Tyler Christopher (Chilliwack, B.C.) finished fifth in his 400 m heat and could not advance to the semifinal. He was ranked sixth in the world coming off a gold medal at the world indoor championships in March. And Bryan Barnett (Edmonton) pulled up 40 m into the 200 m race with a strained left hamstring. It was an injury from last month and Barnett had considered pulling out of the race before it began.

Said Christopher: “I would have been disappointed had I not made the final, so imagine how I feel not getting out of the heats? I had the flu earlier and thought I was better. I didn’t have any other gear than slow.”

Van Koeverden et al Take to the Water

At Shunyi Olympic Canoeing Park, Canada’s flagbearer Adam van Koeverden made quick work of his first heat. The Oakville, Ont. native won the K-1 1,000 m heat to advance straight to the final on Friday. His better event, the K-1 500 m, gets going Tuesday. Four years ago, van Koeverden collected a gold and bronze in kayak at the Olympic Games in Athens.

Canada has a deep team in canoe-kayak this summer, competing in all 12 flatwater races. On Monday, several others raced. In C-2 1,000 m, Andrew Russ (Dartmouth, N.S.) and Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny (Trois-Rivieres, Que.) finished third in their heat to qualify for the finals.

Four other Canadian crews qualified for the semifinals on Wednesday. Thomas Hall (Pointe-Claire, Que.) was fourth in C-1 1,000 m. The men’s K-4 1,000 m was fifth, with Brady Reardon (Burlington, Ont.), Angus Mortimer (Ottawa), Christopher Pellini (Port Credit, Ont.) and Rhys Hill (Ottawa). The women’s K-4 500 m was fifth, with Emilie Fournel (Dorval, Que.), Karen Furneaux (Waverley, N.S.), Genevieve Beauchesne-Sevigny (Trois-Rivières, Que.) and Kristin Gauthier (Ottawa). Finally, the men’s K-2 1,000 m was seventh, with Steven Jorens of Aurora, Ont. and Ryan Cuthbert of Carleton Place, Ont.

Triathlon Crash Catches Lauren Groves

The jinx continued for Canadian women in Olympic triathlon action Monday. In 2000, Sharon Donnelly and Carol Montgomery crashed in the cycling portion while in 2004 it was Jill Savege. This time, Lauren Groves of Vancouver crashed in cycling, the second stage of the triathlon.

She was trying to chase the lead pack when a cyclist in her group fell, causing several riders to go down, Groves among them. “It has been such a trying year with injuries for me,” Groves said. “I had a solid six weeks of training coming in to the Olympics. I had the swim of my life today and I thought I could have had a top-10. “I’m going to stick around for the rest of the Olympics and cheer the guys on tomorrow. I will be at the closing ceremonies – I may just have my arm hung up.”

Two other Canadians did finish the triathlon. Carolyn Murray of St. Albert, Alta., came in 29th place with Montreal’s Kathy Tremblay close behind in 31st spot. “It was tough but this is the Olympics and it is supposed to be tough,” Murray said. “I think that’s why the feeling of accomplishment must be so much greater for those who are on the podium today.”

Despatie Gets Started in Diving

Alexandre Despatie, of Laval, Que., returned to individual diving competition for the first time since February after recovering from a foot injury. He and teammate Reuben Ross of Regina competed in the 3 m springboard, an event heavily watched in Beijing due to China’s excellent divers.

Despatie finished ninth with 453.60 points and Reuben Ross finished 13th with 446.15 points (his highest international place). Both advanced to remain in medal contention. “We saw that it was an extremely strong event, said Despatie, who won silver in this event in Athens in 2004. “I felt good on the board, I did not feel nervous. On the other hand, I made unacceptable errors. I’m irritated now, but am going to have a good night sleep. Tomorrow will be a new day.”

Elsewhere on Day 10

Track cyclist Gina Grain of North Burnaby, B.C. finished the women’s points race in ninth place. “It was really fast right from the start,” she said. “I am happy with my strategy. I was definitely in there mixing it up.”

In the trampoline final, Rosannagh MacLennan of King City, Ont., finished seventh in her first Olympic Games. The 20-year-old will be a gymnast to watch in the future.

The Canadian women’s softball team lost 6-0 to a strong Japanese team. Yet thanks to Australia’s win over Venezuela, Canada will enter the medal round with a 3-4 record. They play Australia on Wednesday.

In synchronized swimming, Canadian duet Marie-Pierre Boudreau Gagnon (Riviere-du-Loup, Que.) and Isabelle Rampling (Burlington, Ont.) finished sixth after the opening round. Their score of 47.417 was just back of the American pair who finished fifth at 47.750.

“We are very proud of our performance; this is a new routine for us and it was really important to do well on day one,” said Boudreau Gagnon. “The theme for this routine is cold and it’s very dramatic so it allowed us to emphasize on the required movements.”

The men’s baseball team was on the short-end of a 1-0 final against Japan on Monday. It is the team’s fourth straight loss by one run. Starting pitcher Chris Begg of Uxbridge, Ont. was strong and gave up just one run – a home run in the fifth inning. The odds of making the medal round are long for the team.

Said veteran Stubby Clapp of Windsor, Ont.: “When you play for Canada, there is a lot of pride involved and a lot at stake for each player. Being a part of this program is a privilege. Unfortunately, we won’t be in the playoffs to reward Baseball Canada and all the coaching staff who work hard at developing these young players. I will play to the last out for this country.”

In the women’s hammer throw, Sultana Frizell of Perth, Ont. did not have her best day, throwing 65.44 m, five metres short of her best. She did not advance.

In men’s water polo, Canada lost to Hungary 12-3.

In equestrian jumping individual action, Eric Lamaze sits in second spot, Ian Millar in eighth and Gillian Henselwood in 25th.

In table tennis action, two Chinese-born Canadians were in action. Mo Zhang of Ottawa won her match four games to none while Judy Long of Ottawa lost her match 4-1.

In sailing, the Tornado team finished first in one of their races, and sits 8th overall after Monday. In laser, Mike Leigh is 10th overall. In Laser Radial, Lisa Ross sits 17th overall. In RS:X, Nikola Girke sits in 17th spot and Zachary Plavsic in 23rd position.