LONDON—We are BRONZILLA.
Three Number Three finishes on Day 5 of London 2012.
Canada knows from hat tricks, eh?
And here’s the juicy cherry on top: We ate Team Great Britain, pipped ’em on the podium twice in one afternoon.
Maybe they should have gone trolling in Quebec for “plastic Brits’’ — passport nationals from across what was once known as the Empire — when plumping out the U.K. squad with elite potential.
Good thing la belle province is still part of our Dominion, by the way. As is becoming their habit, Quebec-born sportsmen and sportswomen have done the entire heavy trinket lifting for Canada thus far at these XXX Olympic Games, a quartet of bronze.
Still tied on the medal tote board, 4-4, with the hosts who ain’t got the most, true, and a couple of theirs are of the silver variety. But Canada didn’t come into these Games proclaiming to Hoover the hardware. What was it the Brits had predicted? U.K. Sport, the government’s funding body, said it expected Team G.B. to collect 48 medals and that was at the moderate end of the spectrum. A bunch of science geeks, crunching the numbers and plotting the graphs, had touted a grand sum of 62 medals for the host nation — 25 of them gold — and fourth on the nation table.
After Tuesday’s events they were tied for 11th in total medals, neck and neck with . . . why, look at this: Us.
The difference is, we always knew that at the summer version of the Olympics — unlike that glorious warm winter fortnight in Vancouver/Whistler two years ago — Canada was a softie power, modestly aiming for a top-12 overall finish here. So bronze — times four as of Tuesday night — feels grand. Silver for them — including Tuesday’s three-day eventing medal out in Greenwich — feels slightly devalued, an implied “oh bother’’ in the achievement.
On Tuesday, as heralded British hopefuls were circling the drain — washed out in canoe slalom, in the drink (literally) on the sailing waves, kapow-ed in judo — Canada was deftly racking up the laurels, once and yet again at the expense of Jolly Old.
Feel badly for them, actually, so many long faces, so many tears, and ballooning anxiety at the keyboard of the Fourth Estate as the days slip away with no host gold yet, all that pressure clearly affecting discombobulated athletes at the front line of national expectations, police even investigating a particularly nasty piece of hate mail received by Olympic pin-up boy wonder Tom Daley after he and partner Pete Waterfield went fourth-place splash in 10-metre synchronized diving.
Synchro has been very generous to Canadians. Roseline Filion and Meaghan Benfeito found their precious metal — even if the bronze (copper) 2012 swag is worth all of three quid — catapulting in twists and somersaults, tuck and pike, pointy toes and balls of brass, off the 10-metre platform.
A close thing it was and decided only on the final of five dives — Filion and Benfeito eighth and last in the lineup — with an accumulated personal best of 337.12, improving immensely on their seventh-place finish in Beijing. That burst the bubble for Britain’s duo of Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow, who fell back to fifth. China — three-for-three now in diving — took gold, Mexico the silver.
Best friends, utterly synchronized in moods and tastes, the Canadian tandem said they never doubted there would be a medal on the other end of dive five. “I always follow the scoreboard so I knew exactly where we were situated,’’ said Benfeito. “I told (Filion) all we have to do is land on our heads and we’ve got it. And that’s exactly what happened.’’
Canada’s first medal of these Games was earned by veteran Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel off the three-metre springboard, synchro-style, on Sunday.
Thirty minutes later, over at the judo venue, 22-year-old Antoine Valois-Fortier of Quebec City was busy nailing bronze in his 81-kilo class with a 1-0 dispatch of American Travis Stevens, after going 4-1 in the preliminaries. It was a tremendous outcome for Valois-Fortier who had to contend with Azerbaijan’s Elnur Mammadli, No. 3 in the world, in his very first fight.
“It feels amazing. I’ve sacrificed so much and all of the fights today were very hard. It was tough mentally but the whole team supported me and I managed to pull myself together. I wanted it really bad. It’s what I work for every day.’’
It was Canada’s first Olympic judo medal since Nicolas Gill, Valois-Fortier’s coach, won silver in Sydney in 2000.
But our fine athletes weren’t done yet.
Christine Girard hoisted her way to bronze, too, in the weightlifting 63-kilo class.
“It is very hard to describe how I feel. Four years ago in Beijing I came fourth, and since then I have spent the past four years training through injuries and various changes in my life to get to this moment. All I have been thinking about is getting on the podium. Now I have reached it. It feels good.’’
She described it as the best moment of her life.
“I should say my wedding comes close, but this is completely different.’’
Girard is from Rouyn-Noranda, so wall-to-wall Quebecers, a fact pounced upon by the leader of the pro-independence Parti Quebecois, who promptly exploited the phenomenon when queried by a reporter during a news conference to introduce PQ candidates for an election expected to be called in early September.
From Montreal, Pauline Marois called it just one example of how Quebec could go-go on its own-own.
“This means, among other things, that it’s another example of how Quebec could shine among the brightest . . . as an independent country. We could continue to win our medals. I’m sure of it.’’
Just couldn’t resist.
There was a gallant acquittal by Canada’s female gymnasts, who just days ago were considered a longshot to even qualify for the final. Instead, they swung and pivoted their way to an admirable fifth-place finish, leaping ahead of Britain, Italy and Japan. The Canadian sprites earned a score of 170.884, just squeaking past the Brits, with 170.495. An emotional gold was struck by the Americans, their first Olympic championship in 16 years. Russia was second and Romania third.
There was disappointment in Wimbledon but valour, too, as Thornhill’s Milos Raonic was eliminated in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 25-23, in his second-round match with France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Alexandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., also fell, 6-1, 6-3 to Venus Williams.
In the pool lanes, Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C., posted the fifth-fastest time — 48.53 — in the 100-metre freestyle heats, advanced to Wednesday’s final — the first Canadian male to do so in almost half a century. Fellow Canadians Scott Dickens and Audrey Lacroix also proceeded through to the semifinals, in the 200 breaststroke and 200 butterfly, respectively.
And, rounding things out: the women’s soccer team tied Sweden 2-2, moving through to the quarter-finals.
With files from Doug Smith
Also on the Star:
CANADA CLAIMS BRONZE IN MEN’S JUDO
CANADIAN WINS BRONZE IN WEIGHTLIFTING
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