SOCHI, RUSSIA - The Canadian pairs team of Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers finished 14th on Wednesday, but they certainly enjoyed their first Olympic experience. So much so that Lawrence didn’t want to leave the ice after the long program.
“That’s why I kept curtsying,” she said with a laugh. “I would have stayed out there and curtsied to every person.”
Lawrence is from Kennedy, Sask., the home of three-time women’s hockey gold-medallist Colleen Sostorics. Lawrence said when Sostorics came back from Salt Lake City in 2002 with the gold, the town threw her a pot-luck dinner. So, when Lawrence and Swiegers made the 2009 world junior team, Skate Canada high performance director Mike Slipchuk asked Lawrence if the town was going to throw her and Swiegers one.
“I was like: ‘Oh my gosh, no. We’re not good enough for a potluck supper,’ because the last potluck supper I’d been to had been for Colleen, who is an Olympic gold-medallist,” said Lawrence. “To me, it was a potluck, which, in my mind, is a big thing. But now that we’ve made the Olympics I guess we’re good enough for a potluck. We’re big on potluck suppers in Kennedy.”
Lawrence said when Sostorics returned home after winning the gold at the 2006 Turin Games, she did not get a second potluck.
“She signed autographs at our rodeo,” said Lawrence, 23.
Swiegers, 26, was born in South Africa and speaks Afrikaans.
The pairs gold medal, won by Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov on Wednesday, marked the first time a pairs team won a gold medal on home ice since 1936. The previous time was in 1936 when Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier of Germany did it at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
BY DIVINE RIGHT
Each member of the Czech Olympic team was given a St. Michael medal by Czech Roman Catholic Cardinal Dominik Duka, who has travelled to Sochi with the team. “We’re blessed,” said six-time national figure skating champion Tomas Verner, who has the medal attached to his accreditation tag. “This is my guardian angel.” Verner could have used a little divine help four years ago in Vancouver: A nasty bout of swine flu drained his energy and the three-time Olympian finished 19th in 2010. “It was pure hell for me,” he said.
IPOD TURNED UP
“It’s great. It wasn’t like this in Vancouver.”
That’s what snowboard half-pipe gold-medallist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland said of the crowd at the venue cheering for everyone, not just the home athletes. Ouch. Ipod, as he’s called, is known for his wild partying and crazy antics and reportedly once paid for fuel at a gas station wearing nothing but his wristwatch and a hat. Wacky European stuff.
Talk about spreading its hockey knowledge around the world: The head coach of the Latvian team is Canadian Ted Nolan. His assistant is also a Canadian, Tom Coolen. The coach of the Swiss team is a Canadian, Sean Simpson, as is the coach of the Austrian team, Emanuel Viveiros.
“Certain countries export different things and one of the things Canada exports is hockey coaches,” said Coolen.
NOT A GOOD IDEA
There is an athlete from Tonga in Sochi. Yes, Tonga, a Polynesian island in south Pacific. The guy’s name is Fuahea Semi, who moved to Germany to train in the luge. He then changed his name to Bruno Banani in an effort to get a sponsorship deal from a German underwear firm by the same name. Banani finished 32nd in the luge. No doubt, companies are crawling all over him with contracts.
NOT FUNNY AT THE TIME
A media bus from Gorki to Rosa Khutor Extreme Park became hopelessly lost the other day and then became stuck in a traffic jam, prompting the passengers to spontaneously start humming the theme from The Benny Hill Show.
Temperatures in Sochi next week are expected to hit 20C. Organizers plan to turn the ski-jump venue into a water slide.
Family and friends of Canadian half-pipe snowboarder Alexandra Duckworth travelled on Wednesday from their hometown of Kingsburg, N.S. — a little fishing village “that has about 100 houses,” — to Halifax to watch her performance live in a movie theatre at 6 a.m. Duckworth, 26, is the only athlete from Nova Scotia at the Sochi Games.