Bitter Canadians call out Polish speed skaters for 'tanking'

(L-R) Poland's Konrad Niedzwiedzki, Poland's Jan Szymanski and Poland's Zbigniew Brodka compete in...

(L-R) Poland's Konrad Niedzwiedzki, Poland's Jan Szymanski and Poland's Zbigniew Brodka compete in the men's speed skating team pursuit final B at the Adler Arena during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 22, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 1:52 PM ET

The Canadian men’s team pursuit trio skated the bronze medal final the Canadian way Saturday, and in the end that may have cost them a medal.

Canada, the defending Olympic champions, lost to Poland in the bronze medal race (3:41.94 to 3:44.27) because the Poles were obviously less fatigued in the race, thanks to the fact they didn’t give it their all in the semis.

In the semifinals Friday, Canada went up against Korea and skated their hearts out, actually leading the world No. 2-ranked team by 1.09 seconds at one point before fading and losing by almost three seconds. In the other semi, the Poles faced top-ranked Netherlands and certainly didn’t give it their best effort, losing to the Dutch by a whopping 11.29 seconds with a time 3:52.08 — more than 10 seconds slower than their subsequent bronze-winning time against Canada.

That obviously didn’t sit very well with the Canadians, who gave it their best against Korea in the semis (their time was only one second slower in the semis than in the bronze medal race) and then against Poland in the bronze match.

“All we can say is, we showed our Canadian pride, our Canadian spirit, in going all out in the semifinal against Korea,” said Calgary skater Denny Morrison, who won two individual speed skating medals in Sochi. “(Korea) are the No. 2-ranked team in the world and we knew they were going to have a good time and we put down our very best race (in the semis) and couldn’t quite beat them. But we can hold our heads high knowing that we tried to go for the gold.”

Canadian coach Bart Schouten said the Poles were obviously not going for the gold in the semis and held back for the bronze medal race. But the strategy seemed to work. The Poles looked refreshed in the bronze medal match while the Canadians faded. The Canadian team — Morrison, Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, Que. and Lucas Makowsky of Regina — came out of the starting line on fire against Poland, taking a 2.33 second lead after seven laps, but then tired and were passed by Poland with about two laps to go.

But while Poland’s strategy of resting for the bronze medal match worked, nobody on the Canadian team was impressed.

“That possibly could have helped the Polish guys but I don’t think it’s the way Olympics are supposed to be skated and raced,” said Schouten. “I think you’re here, you show up, you give it all you can. That’s what the Canadian guys did. They skated their hearts out even though they knew it would be very tough against the Koreans because they were three seconds faster, but you don’t give up. You don’t go to the Games to give away a race. You just don’t do that. That’s not the Canadian mentality. That’s not what we do.”

Morrison, 28, said the Canadian team lost the bronze but are proud for going all-out in every single heat, semi and final.

“I don’t think you could point at one of our races anytime during this Olympics, individual or in our team pursuit, where we weren’t going 100% trying to win those races and ultimately I feel like we accomplished some really great things together,” he said.

Morrison won two individual medals for Canada in Sochi, a silver in the 1,000m after teammate Gilmore Junio gave up his spot for him, and a bronze in the 1,500m — Canada’s only medals in long track. Four years ago at the Vancouver Olympics, the Canadian team won five medals, including two gold.

Morrison blamed himself for fading late in the race against Poland but Schouten said he shouldn’t, pointing out that his individual races — and all the attention that came with them — contributed to his fatigue.

The Netherlands won gold in both the men’s and women’s pursuit on Saturday, both an Olympic record time. The Dutch won 13 long track medals, including five gold. The Canadian women’s team pursuit team finished fifth.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun

 


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