Heartbreak for hopefuls

TURIN -- One day after the great victory of Jennifer Heil, sporting life drums to an old, uncomfortable tune for Team Canada at the Winter Olympic Games.

In the morning, there were Canadian tears shed at Pragelato Pran. In the afternoon, there was a stunned silence at the Oval Lingotto. And by evening at Palavela, there was a sense that a medal had been stolen away by a sport that breaks hearts.

This was Day 2 of the Turin Games, a Punch-and-Judy hitter's kind of day: Canada was one for three in legitimate medal opportunities. One clunker of a bronze medal.

Two golden opportunities lost.

A surprise medal somehow taken away.

The kind of day the Canadian Olympic Committee has been hoping so much to avoid. The kind of day that puts the momentum of Heil's gold, presented to her in the Medals Plaza last night, in a holding pattern until the next win, the next surprise.

Sometimes Olympic disappointment comes when the expectation and the result do not meet.

That isn't always media making the call or even the COC. You can read it from the athletes themselves, and nobody knows their own sport better than they.

But it takes on an even deeper meaning when the eyes of the athletes never lie, when Beckie Scott falls into her husband's arms and both of them burst into tears.

Scott absolutely believed she would win a medal yesterday in cross-country skiing. She couldn't think anything but that and should be applauded for her vision.

And then she finished a stunning sixth, a spot she never believed or imagined possible.

Cindy Klassen wasn't sure what to think. She wasn't, she insisted, going to let any kind of buildup get to her. She was a co-favourite to win in the 3,000-metre speed-skating event and for a lap or five, it looked like that might be possible.

And then it happened. She barely finished, looked to be out of the medals with two pairs still to skate. But her time somehow held up and the medal seemed a decent consolation prize for an unfulfilled performance.

The medal she wanted. The colour wasn't preferred.

That officially brings the medal count to two. Some thought, not necessarily with huge optimism, that it might be four by now.

It was a single medal for Klassen and not the one she wanted. Yet it was a medal either Mathieu Turcotte or Charles Hamelin would have gladly settled for late last night. Short-track speed-skating can't help but write stories of woe and discomfort. It is part of the charm and the flaw of the sport.

Turcotte, a two-time medal winner from Quebec, was believed to have a chance at the podium.

His coach went so far as to predict it.

But then Turcotte got boxed out in the semi-finals, didn't qualify for the final in the 1,500 metres, and ended up, like Beckie Scott, stunned and in sixth place.

'GOING FOR GOLD'

Charles Hamelin, a name to remember from Quebec -- and aren't all short-track speed-skaters from Quebec memorable? -- was having the racing night of his life, but history won't necessarily record it that way.

He breezed through his heats, qualified for the finals in the 1,500 metres and was leading with four laps to go in the 13 1/2-lap race. He was about to become one of those came-from-nowhere stories.

"I was going for gold," Hamelin, 21, said afterwards. "I was this close."

If not in a position to win, he was in position to show with two laps to go.

"The Chinese (skater) just arrived from nowhere. He bumped me, and I was out of the race."

Li Ye of China was disqualified for his physical indiscretion.

All it cost Hamelin was an Olympic medal.

"He was awesome," said Turcotte of his teammate. "He was the fastest guy today. What a heartbreaker for him."

A heartbreaking kind of day for Canada. Hopefully a one-day setback. Early this morning, Jeremy Wotherspoon, the speed-skating poster child for Olympic disappointment, has the opportunity to change that direction again. The opportunity is there -- it is forever there for Canadian athletes wanting more.