Short-track slump

TURIN -- For a guy who didn't make the final, Eric Bedard was talking an awfully good game last night.

The 29-year-old short tracker from Ste-Thecle, Que., was predicting big things from his team going into these Games. Problem is, we're more than halfway home, and still waiting.

In case you're scoring at home, after four events the Canucks have one bronze medal. This from the bunch that produced more hardware than any single Canadian team in Salt Lake City, hitting the podium six times.

And the one top-three finish has come from a 21-year-old who wasn't expected to medal, Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, in the women's 500 metres.

Last night, the Maple Leaf had two medal hopefuls in the men's 1,000, Bedard and Francois-Louis Tremblay. Neither made the final before a near sellout crowd of 6,103 at the raucous Palavela.

Instead, the top two spots on the podium were taken by the Koreans, which is exactly what happened in the 1,500 on Day 1.

Still, Bedard wasn't ready to concede Korea may have crept up on Canada in short track.

"I don't think so," he said. "The Koreans are good in the 1,500. They are not there in the 500. I would like to talk to you next week, after the 500 metres. You'll probably see two (Canadian) guys in the final."

Fair enough. It ain't over till it's over.

Check out the standings right now, though, and it's 6-1, Korea, overall, in a sport in which Canada hasn't played second fiddle to anyone over the years.

"We're dominant," Bedard continued. "In the past seven years, we've won the world team championship five times. The Koreans in the past 10 years, nothing. The world record in the relay, Canada. So who's the best country ... I think you can see the best country is us."

Is, or was?

Four years ago, Canadians won medals in both the 1,000 and 1,500, and Bedard himself took bronze in the 1,000 in Nagano, back in '98.

Last night, he was disqualified from his semi for bumping JiaJun Li of China on the final turn, a ruling that didn't impress him any more than the Koreans have.

As he crossed the finish line, Bedard whirled around, yelling and gesturing at the Chinese skater.

"Li changed tracks on me," Bedard said. "Of course I bumped him. One of the rules is you can't change tracks."

The debate was elementary, though: Bedard was in fourth and last place at the time, and wasn't going to finish in the top two to make the final, anyway.

Bedard admits he may have been a tad psyched out going into his semi, and looking at the field, you couldn't blame him.

All four skaters were already Olympic medallists, including American star Apolo Anton Ohno, who wound up winning bronze, and Hyun-Soo Ahn of Korea, the eventual gold-medal winner.

Dominated

"Maybe psychological, too, (thinking) if I have Ahn and Apolo in my semi, it will be a tough one," Bedard said. "I'm lucky I have another chance next week in the 500 metres."

If that doesn't work out for the men's team, they'll be down to the relay, an event they've dominated.

As it stands now, though, they're underachieving, unlike their female colleagues.

Leblanc-Boucher didn't qualify for the women's 1,500 final, but Kitchener's Amanda Overland did, finishing a surprising fifth.

"Holy, my gosh!" Overland beamed. "This is how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel peaked and ready. You want to feel your best at the Olympics, and I feel my best right now."

It's your turn, guys.

Contact Paul at pfriesen@wpgsun.com or 632-2788.