SOCHI, RUSSIA - Canadian short track speed skater Marianne St-Gelais could have used a straightjacket to go along with her silver medal on Tuesday.
Talk about a day full of twists and turns, and short track insanity.
In fact, no one could have blamed St-Gelais if she spent the night howling at the moon in celebration of winning her 3,000-metre relay silver medal.
St-Gelais began her crazy day by being taken out by Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors in the 1,000 metre heats at the Iceberg Skating Palace and, for whatever reason, ter Mors, who made contact with St-Gelais from behind, wasn’t penalized. St-Gelais got up and finished, but placed fourth and failed to qualify for the quarter-finals. ter Mors, meanwhile, moved on the quarters.
“I went outside and I was walking, it was raining, I went ‘Rroarr!’”, said St-Gelais, when asked what she did after the fall. “I was kind of screaming in the parking lot. If someone was there it would have been, ‘No, don’t talk to me.’ I just needed some time to breath.”
About an later, St-Gelais watched her boyfriend, Canadian short track star Charles Hamelin, fall for the second time at these Games, this time in the 500-metres heats — a second time he wiped out in an event he was expected to win a medal.
“When I went out the room, Charles came in (after his heat), and I just heard, ‘Bing! Bang! Bang!,” said St-Gelais. “He was pretty mad.
“I was really sad for him because Charles never falls and he fell twice at the Olympics,” added the Roberval, Que. native.
Under normal circumstances, St-Gelais could have gone over and consoled her boyfriend — who did win the gold medal in the 1,500 metres earlier at these Games. But there was a little matter of getting ready for the 3,000-metre relay.
After twice being knocked on her tush, once literally, St-Gelais had to find a way to build herself back up for her teammates.
“It was really important for me to take some time off and not bring all my anger from the 1,000 because I didn’t want these girls to pay for what I’d done,” she said. “I was saying to myself, ‘You have something to do and after that you’re going to see Charles.’
“When I came in the (preparation) room, I was ready and my coaches wanted to be sure that the page was turned and everything was fine for the final and honestly I was feeling pretty great,” she added. “I was ready to roll.”
The Canadian team promptly went out and captured a silver medal in the 3,000M relay — only the second medal of the Games for the powerful Canadian short track team — thanks in part to a strategy known as their “Commando Mission” and the fact that the Chinese team was disqualified. Canada originally finished third, but were moved up to second with the DQ. Korea won the race in 4:09.498, followed by Canada (4:10.641) and Italy (4:14.014).
The Commando Mission was a new tactic the women’s team had worked this season but had yet to employ in a race. The idea was to have Marie-Eve Drolet and Jessica Hewitt skate longer than usual during the middle sections of the event and allow Valerie Maltais — who had set a world record in the 1,000 heats earlier (1:28.771) — more energy at the end, so she could match the Koreans and Chinese, who usually try to pull away at the late stages of the relay.
“We had planned to do the Commando Mission, as we called it, and we were happy to try to mess the other teams and I think it worked a little bit because one of the team’s fell,” said Maltais, a native La Baie, Que. “We wanted them to lose their focus.”
And so, St-Gelais’ madcap day came to a merciful end.
“It ended on a good note so I’m happy for that,” she said.
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