Leman crashes out of ski cross final, misses Olympic podium

Canada's Brady Leman reacts after finishing fourth in men's ski cross final at the 2014 Sochi...

Canada's Brady Leman reacts after finishing fourth in men's ski cross final at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 20, 2014. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA - There is this little secret about Canada at the Winter Olympic Games: When chef de mission Steve Podborski shows up to watch an event, it’s almost always with the expectation there will be some kind of celebration that day.

His schedule is planned out so as not to miss any medal possibility.

But there Podborski was Thursday and there was no celebration at the men’s ski cross event. In the end, there was no photo opportunity. There were only glum faces of Canadians athletes at the bottom of the Rosa Khutor course who, frankly, expected more.

For the three men targeted to be podium-bound in this wild, slightly crazy and unpredictable sport, there were varying degrees of disappointment, and, in one case, the haunting feeling an opportunity lost.

Prior to the final round of heats, the three Canadians were seeded second, third and sixth in the 32-man field.

They ended up fourth, 17th and 26th. So much for seeding.

Brady Leman of Canmore, Alta., had a 75% shot at being on the podium — he advanced all the way to the final four — and in his medal race he looked to be on his way to bronze. But he wound up slightly entangled with a competitor, lost an edge, fell, and wound up last. Last in his race. Fourth in the Olympics.

“It sucked watching my teammate and best friend (Chris Del Bosco) go through this (four years ago) and it sucks to be so close to the podium and (not make it),” said Leman.

It was worse for Del Bosco of Montreal via the United States, who was heartbroken in Vancouver with his fourth-place finish. He lost out before the round of 16, stunning considering many thought he would be podium-bound here.

And the hottest of the Canadians, the veteran Dave Duncan of London, Ont., he too didn’t make it out of his first heat of the second round, like many on the way, crashing and not recovering. He ended up 26th.

The lack of any medal puts into doubt the Canadian Olympic Committee’s lofty aspirations of beating the 26 medals won by Canadians in Vancouver in 2010.

By mid-afternoon in Sochi Thursday, Canada had won 18 medals, were assured two more in curling, and one in women’s hockey, that brings the number realistically to 21. Should men’s hockey medal, that would be 22. Getting to 26 remains the challenge with just three days left on the Olympic program and Canada needing a surprise medal or two to surpass Vancouver.

Leman was oh-so-close to being there, and looked so strong getting to the final four.

“I feel like I belong on the podium. That was my expectation for myself,” he said.

Duncan went down. Del Bosco lost his balance when his legs split apart too wide and he couldn’t properly land his jump. Leman dominated in what he called “cross-country snow” until the final run. And in one quarterfinal race, the three leading racers all crashed within metres of the finish line, enabling the fourth-place finisher to ski past them for the win.

“This is why people love ski cross,” said Duncan. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Which makes it ever so difficult to predict for the COC, who use medal count numbers as a means of garnering funding in the future.

“We didn’t showcase what we’re capable of today,” Duncan said of the Canadians, who are both competitors and friends.

With Leman not a factor in the final race, the French swept the podium with Jean Frederic Chapuis winning gold, Araud Bovolenta with silver, Jonathan Midol with bronze. All three were rated below Del Bosco in the seedings.

“When you’re skiing well, this is tough to swallow,” said Del Bosco.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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