Canada's Groves claims bronze

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


Canada's Kristina groves skates to a bronze medal in the women's 3,000-metre long-track speed skating event at the Vancouver Olympics Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI AGENCY)

RICHMOND, B.C.— Kristina Groves had just turned in one of the best races of her life, but still thought she was doomed to finish in the dreaded fourth spot.

The Ottawa native, whose best events are the 1,000 and 1,500, powered through an impressive 3,000 metres here Sunday and watched as her time stood up for a bronze medal, the first for the powerful Canadian speed skating team.

“Going down the last straightaway, I saw Daniela (Anschutz Thoms) and thought she’s going to get me for sure,” a grateful Groves said after the race. “And just in that split second we were so shocked. It was just a wonderful moment.”

As the German skater crossed the finish line and the times flashed on the board at the Richmond Oval — Groves .03 seconds ahead — the 33-year-old embraced teammate Clara Hughes, and the crowd of 6,500-plus erupted.

It’s the second individual Olympic medal for Groves; she won silver in the 1,500 in Turin.

But this one came a little bit out of the clear blue Richmond sky, as Groves rarely hit the podium in this event during the World Cup season.

“This was more than I expected,” she acknowledged. “There were six, seven, eight girls that I thought could have been on the podium. I was just really fortunate to have that race. I had the best race I could have.”

Maybe she was powered by the crowd.

Groves admitted she got chills while putting her skates on, listening to the roar for teammate Cindy Klassen.

“They announced her, and it gave me goose bumps. I’m getting goosebumps now, too. I’ve never experienced that crowd that loud for Canada. That was really wonderful. It was deafening.”

Klassen, the five-time medallist in Turin, came out fast but faded down the stretch, finishing 14th.

Hughes, whose specialty is the 5,000, came in a surprising fifth.

The gold- and silver-medal winners came as no surprise: Czech powerhouse Martina Sablikova was first, German Stephanie Beckert second.

Beckert edged Groves out of silver by .22 of a second.

“Both her and Martina skated wonderfully,” Groves said. “Those two have really dominated this distance in the World Cups this season. I’m really happy for both of them.”

Groves and Beckert skated head-to-head, with Beckert pulling ahead down the final straightaway.

“Coming out of that (last) turn I thought maybe she’s not going to be there,” Groves said. “And then there she was.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

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