TURIN, Italy -- Minutes before the Canadian men's short-track team set out to make history, the two-time defending Olympic champions found a little surprise in their helmets.
Asked by Eric Bedard to come up with an inspirational sticker to be secretly placed inside the helmet of each member of the 5,000-metre team, technician Laurent Daignault simply wrote 'Nagano' and 'Salt Lake City' to remind them of their past triumphs.
Before the race started, Bedard called the team together for one last shot of adrenalin.
"I said, 'Hey guys, take off your helmet and look inside," said the 29-year-old team leader.
"I said to the guys, 'You have in your hands a chance to give a tradition for Speed Skating Canada. We won in Nagano and Salt Lake City and I think we're ready to win this one.' All the guys smiled and took a little bit of emotion.
"We skated on that emotion and skated to win."
Unfortunately, the motivational tool wasn't enough for the Quebec quartet to hold off the world's top short-tracker, Korea's Hyun-Soo Ahn, who capped a 45-lap race for the ages by passing Mathieu Turcotte on the last lap to relegate the world champs to silver.
"I gave it all I could," said Turcotte, 29, stunned by the Korean's brilliant move that brought a full house at Palavela to its feet.
"I wish I heard him coming on the outside but the crowd was so loud. I knew he was going to do something but I thought he'd try the inside. He had a lot of speed and
I couldn't protect the track. He was stronger at that moment. It's hard for me to accept that but I'm proud of our silver medal."
Showing no signs of disappointment after dominating the event for close to a decade, the foursome immediately grabbed for a Canadian flag and paraded around the rink.
"No skaters could have stayed in front of (Ahn)," reassured Montreal's Jonathan Guilmette, an alternate for the final after competing in the qualifying race. "That's the best skater in the world right now -- he just proved it with three gold and one bronze at these Games."
Executing a game plan to stay in front for as long as possible to avoid the traffic of four other teams, the Canadian crew led for most of the race. Occasionally giving way to the Koreans, Bedard twice chose to swoop back into the lead after being passed.
"There's no disappointment at all," said Francois-Louis Tremblay, who won silver in the men's 500 earlier in the evening. "We did what we had to do and when Mathieu got passed, well, Ahn is a three-time world champion."
Said 21-year-old rookie Charles Hamelin: "I'm really proud of what the team did -- for me this is a gold medal because the team was so good."
The race came a half hour after Bedard finished .004 seconds out of the medals in the 500 final.
"I was a little bit down but I said, 'I have half an hour -- take off your emotion and get back to the guys," said the passionate Montreal native. "They don't need to say, 'Get back on track.' Just to see each other's eyes: I know they're there to win.
"We didn't lose the gold. We won silver ... and I'm proud of the team."