Precious medals

TURIN -- Red Deer's Steven Elm knew the men's long trackers were in for a good day -- he arrived at the Oval Lingotto to find they'd be sharing a locker-room with the women.

"Anytime the girls and guys share a change room, it boosts the testosterone," Elm said.

Inspiration from the opposite sex. Who knew it could produce such stimulating results?

On ice, no less.

Now let's hope they pass the drug test.

Canada's men's and women's speed skating teams scored silver medals yesterday, helping to make it the most productive day, yet, for the Maple Leaf at these Games.

Rolled to the finals

Taking part in the new team pursuit, both rolled to the gold-medal finals, feeding off each other's success along the way.

First it was the women, blowing the doors off Japan by nearly four seconds in their semi, setting up a titillating final against Anni Friesinger and the dynamic Germans.

The men followed by taking on the Norwegians, a trip to the final and a guarantee of no less than silver on the line.

"We didn't even want to watch the guys in the semis, because we were so nervous," Winnipeg's Clara Hughes said. "And then I ran out and watched the last two laps on TV. I ran into the change room to tell the girls our guys were in the gold-medal (final). And we were just screaming in the change room. It was like kids."

Anybody expecting Canada to waltz to a pair of gold medals, though, would have been guilty of premature celebration.

The women threw everything they could at Germany -- OK, not quite everything, as Cindy Klassen sat out the final -- but came up 1.66 seconds short over six laps.

The men faced two opponents in their eight-lap final: the Italians and the home crowd.

Not even a little female inspiration could beat that combination.

"They put up such a fight in the final," Yorkton's Jason Parker said of the women. "They gave it everything. That gave us a lot of energy going into our final, too."

In the end, both Canadian teams had extended themselves a tad too much just to reach their gold-medal matches.

But that didn't dull the sheen from a pair of silver-medal performances which, combined with one bronze in skeleton and another in men's figure skating, left Canada with a total of eight medals at the end of the day.

Hughes, who'd skated a disappointing 3,000-metre race Day 2, hopes the long track haul inspires her countrymen and women -- just as she was inspired by the rebound performances of skiers Beckie Scott and Sara Renner earlier in the week.

"I thought if they can turn things around, then so can we," Hughes said. "I hope this is momentum for the speed skating team and for our Olympic team. We needed a day like this."

It wasn't unexpected, at least from a female perspective.

The guys, though, came in under the radar, and they wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

"Nobody thought we could pull it off," Calgary's Arne Dankers, who skated in both the semi and final, said. "There's more to team pursuit than having one superstar on the team, like Chad Hedrick (of the U.S.)."

Turns out the Canucks were a little fired up about some of the pre-competition bravado emanating from the American and Dutch camps.

'Show them who's boss'

"We're all really low-key guys, and we thought this was a great opportunity," said Parker, who didn't skate yesterday, but helped the guys through Wednesday's quarter-final. "Let them try and take the limelight, and then we'll come out with our big guns and just really show them who's the boss."

Sounds like some testosterone going, there.

And if a little sexual tension played a role, so be it.

"You don't want to know what was going on in the change room," Hughes said. "That's top-secret information."

Could lead to a whole new training regimen, too.