February 26, 2006
Drama great to see
Women's 5,000-metre speed skating event a dream come true for CBC
PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

The Olympic gods smiled on Canada and the CBC yesterday.

Canadian hopes were higher than Bode Miller, needing only five medals to match the Canadian Olympic Association's pre-Games prediction of 25.

CBC morning host Terry Leibel noted 25 is "totally within sight," with 11 possible medal hopes on the day. She also said Canada had posted 10 fourth-place finishes thus far in the Games.

"Oh-so-close, within a blink of the podium," she said.

"No need to shrug. No need to make excuses. You're still champions."

The melodrama aside, the real drama unfolded in the women's long track 5,000 metres.

Cindy Klassen and teammate Clara Hughes combined to forge the latest moment in Canadian history.

Klassen finished third to become the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympic Games.

Her collective achievement was only matched by the brilliant, final performance of Hughes, who followed Klassen in the final pairing, matched against reigning Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein.

The gap-toothed Winnipeg girl with the long-flowing red locks gave her all to win, collapsing to the ice afterward in sheer exhaustion.

CBC dug into its archives, showing Hughes collapsing after her finish in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, in which she placed third.

"Totally exhausted then, totally exhausted now," race announcer Steve Armitage said. "She doesn't know enough not to give her all. Her pain threshhold must be incredible."

CBC didn't waver from the story, dispatching Karin Larsen to do immediate interviews with both Canadians.

"It almost killed me, but that's what it takes to win the Olympics," Hughes said. "My body and brain went to another planetory system.

"If you dream and allow yourself to dream you can do anything. I want the kids in Canada to see this and realize this could be you."

The image of Hughes and Klassen standing alongside and laughing and signing during the national anthem added another wonderful element to the story.

CBC provided a neat sidebar later on about the speed skating icemaker, a Canadian named Mark Messer who embedded a gold maple leaf into the ice to give Hughes good luck.

"It was a little bit of subterfuge," he said.

"I had to do it at night when nobody was around."

To its credit, the CBC broke away from a meaningless bronze-medal hockey game between the Czech Republic and Russia to show the men's 5,000-metre short-track speedskating relay.

Armitage and partner Catriona Le May Doan, who were all over the skating action yesterday, explained possible pitfalls and pratfalls that may result because of the crowded field.

It unfolded without incident, and the Canadians finished a close second to the Koreans.

Canada won four medals yesterday, missing a fifth when the four-man bobsleigh team placed fourth.

It was a super Saturday for Canada and the CBC.

Bits and soundbites

Funniest moment of the day came during the curling medal presentation. The Finnish vice-skip kissed the presenter, who backed off when he gave the medal to the Finnish skip ... In a media pool before the women's 5,000-metre race, Armitage picked the exact order of finish. "I finally got one right. It was a great night to be right." ... Great catch by skiing announcers Kerrin Lee-Gartner and Scott Oake, who spotted the Swedish skier straddling a gate early in his final run in the men's slalom and ruined his chances of a medal. "He skied brilliantly for 61 turns but there are 62 in the course," Lee-Gartner said.







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Men's 500m
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Men's 1,000m
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Men's 1,500m
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Men's 5,000m
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Men's 10,000m
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Men's Team Pursuit
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Women's 500m
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Women's 1,000m
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Women's 1,500m
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Women's 3,000m
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Women's 5,000m
Results
Past Champs

Women's Team Pursuit
Results
Past Champs