Canada made its mark on the medal table early at the Beijing Olympics, as speedskater Isabelle Weidemann raced to bronze in the women’s 3,000 metres on Saturday.
The 26-year-old from Ottawa finished with a time of three minutes 58.64 seconds at the Ice Ribbon oval.
The women’s 3,000 was the second event at the Games to award medals. Weidemann received her hardware shortly after Norway’s Therese Johaug became Beijing’s first gold medallist in the women’s 15-kilometre cross-country skiathlon.
Weidemann had the leading time heading into the final pairing of the 3,000 but was eclipsed by gold medallist Irene Schouten of the Netherlands, who finished with an Olympic-record time of 3:56.93, and silver medallist Francesca Lollobrigida of Italy.
It’s Canada’s first long-track speedskating medal since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
““I’m pretty overwhelmed. I was very nervous today, but was so pleased how the race went and to bring home a medal,” she said. “I was shaky at the start and by four laps in I could feel the fight.
“I have a big family and so many friends and staff here, people that believed in me for so long. I am so happy to be bringing something back for them.”
Weidemann arrived in Beijing a medal contender in both the 3,000 and 5,000 metres. She climbed the podium in three World Cups this season, winning silver in Poland, Norway and Calgary.
Her worst finish was a fourth in the 3,000 in Salt Lake City.
Canada added to its medal count later Saturday, when reigning Olympic champion Mikael Kingsbury snagged silver in the men’s moguls.
Kingsbury completed a near-flawless run and his 82.18 were the most points anyone had scored in the five rounds of the event, seemingly clinching back-to-back gold medals for the Canadian freestyle skiing legend.
But then Sweden’s Walter Wallberg topped Kingsbury’s score by more than a point on the last run of the superfinal.
“”Walter, with the pressure on, put down the best run of the day and props on him,” said Kingsbury. “I’m very proud of him too, to become part of our little group of Olympic champions.”
Late Saturday, Canada missed a medal chance in the mixed short-track speedskating relay.
Host China claimed its first gold at the Games with a winning time of 2:37.34 ahead of Italy, which took silver in 2:37.36.
Canada looked to have finished third, ahead of Hungary, in the four-team final, but was later penalized following a review of a collision between Canada’s Florence Brunelle and Hungary’s Zsofia Konya on the 10th lap of the 18-lap 2,000-metre race.
Hungary was awarded bronze while the Canadian team of Brunelle, Kim Boutin, Steven Dubois and Jordan Pierre-Gilles, which had finished first in its semifinal, missed the podium. The penalty dropped Canada to sixth place overall behind the Netherlands and Kazakhstan, who finished 1-2 in the B final.
In women’s hockey, Canada improved to 2-0 with a dominating 11-1 win over Finland.
Canada’s offensive outburst included hat tricks from Sarah Nurse and Brianne Jenner, while Sarah Fillier and Laura Stacey each scored twice.
Natalie Spooner had four assists, to give her nine points in two games.
“Certainly don’t expect to score that many goals every game, but the way we’re getting the offence is great to see,” Jenner said.
The Canadians piled up the points without high-scoring forward Melodie Daoust, who injured her right arm when she was checked hard into the boards in Thursday’s 12-1 win over Switzerland to open the tournament.
Her status is “day-to-day” and Daoust expected to return to the lineup later in the tournament.
Next up for Canada is a date with the Russians on Monday, followed by a showdown with the archrival Americans on Tuesday.
In mixed curling, the Canadian team of John Morris and Rachel Homan split their two matches Saturday, losing 6-2 to Sweden before bouncing back to beat the United States 7-2.
“It was a battle. The Americans are really a great team, and they can make all the shots. So we had to give them all we had,” said Homan.
The Canadians are now 4-2 in the round robin.
In slopestyle snowboard, 2018 silver medallist Laurie Blouin finished seventh in qualifying and advanced to Sunday’s final.
The Canadian Press