February 18, 2006
Calgary duo Canada's one-two punch
ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

CESANA PARIOL, Italy -- Teammates, roommates, friends, Olympic medallists.

Marking the latest chapter in a relationship that helped two Calgarians contribute to Canadian Olympic history, Duff Gibson and Jeff Pain claimed gold and silver in Olympic skeleton yesterday.

It's only the third time Canadians have finished first and second in the same event at the Winter Games.

"To come across the line to have my wife there, my best friend, my teammates ... just fantastic," said an emotional Gibson, a Calgary firefighter who was mobbed in the finish area when his final run landed him 26 one-hundredths of a second ahead of Pain.

"Our relationship has gone through a lot of changes over the years and if we had stayed separate and fought, we would not have reached this point."

The reigning world champ and heavy favourite heading into the event, Pain set the table for the dramatic finish by narrowly averting a crash heading into the final turn to post the best time with one slider remaining -- Gibson, who won the first heat.

His smooth run left no doubt he'd turned a 10th-place finish in Salt Lake City into gold.

"Of course I wanted to win gold, but I knew at that moment we had two medals -- that's the most important thing," said Pain, 35, who offered his teammate a "Let's go get 'em" between the two runs.

"I didn't really care if he beat me. To be one-two on a podium with a friend is awesome."

Gibson's winning run bumped Calgary teammate Paul Boehm to fourth, putting only the slightest damper on a celebration they'd quietly talked about being a Canadian sweep for years.

"There were no mixed emotions -- I was happy," said Boehm, 31 who immediately joined the post-race celebrations with a healthy crowd of Canadian fans who sang O Canada.

"My first thought was that I was just excited for Duff and Jeff and then I saw their wives and I started crying."

Tears flowed throughout the night as Gibson lived an Olympic dream he has had since he was 10 years old.

A former Alberta speed skating champ who left bobsled to try skeleton seven years ago, Gibson said it took years to settle into a sport he used to make fun of as a bobsledder.

Part of those growing pains included a rift between him and Pain for some time.

"Two years ago, I had been a very selfish athlete and when I injured my foot, I told Duff I had been a bad teammate and hoped that we could work together," said Pain, who rooms with Gibson on the road.

"I was really lucky -- I took a chance and we've achieved more together than we could have apart."

The oldest true athlete on the Canadian team at age 39, Gibson said wrapping up a season full of injury and sled problems with Olympic gold is the perfect time for him to leave the sport.

"It has been a dream of mine to go out on top," said the Toronto-born Gibson as his wife Jennifer clutched Pain's wife Alyson.

"For awhile I thought I would stick around until the first World Cup in Calgary next season, but because I finished where I did today that was it -- that was my last two runs."

The only other Canadian Olympians to finish one-two were 500-metre long track speed skaters Catriona Le May Doan and Susan Auch in 1998 and 500-metre short trackers Marc Gagnon and Jonathan Guilmette in 2002.