Nesbitt nabs gold while men’s hockey squad narrowly avoids Swiss defeat
VANCOUVER— First, Christine Nesbitt couldn’t believe she had won. Then Canada couldn’t believe they almost didn’t.
Joy nearly turned to pain Thursday as Nesbitt’s long-track speedskating gold in the women’s 1,000 metres was abruptly upstaged by a nerve-racking Canadian men’s hockey game that was way closer than it should have been.
Sidney Crosby scored in a shootout to finally dispatch the same stubborn Swiss team that beat Team Canada 2-0 in the 2006 Turin Games, an early loss that many nonetheless blamed for the team’s dismal seventh-place showing. Crosby scored the shootout winner on his second attempt against goaltender Jonas Hiller as the Canada edged its 2006 nemesis 3-2 in their second game.
It very nearly tarnished the gleam of Nesbitt’s gold, which she claimed by not quite the narrowest of margins — two one-hundredths of a second — in what she later described as a less-than-stellar performance.
“I couldn’t believe it, I did not think it was good enough,” said the 24-year-old from London, Ont., stunned as she accepted hugs and accolades after the race, and sheepish as she ascended the podium during the flower ceremony.
Annette Gerritsen and Laurine van Riessen, both of the Netherlands, claimed the silver and bronze medals.
Kristina Groves, who has already claimed bronze in the 3,000 metres, finished fourth — missing out on another medal by six one-hundredths of a second. Shannon Rempel, 25, and Brittany Schussler, 24, both of Winnipeg, finished 21st and 25th.
If Nesbitt’s medal was a shock to her, Lindsey Vonn’s failure to win another was a shock to everyone else.
The American ski star, looking for gold for the second straight day after gutting out a win in the previous day’s women’s downhill, needed only to make it through her run to claim a podium finish in the women’s super combined.
Vonn, nursing one of the most talked-about shin bruises in modern alpine-racing history, missed a gate midway through her race, blew a ski and skidded dismally out of contention, watching the gold go instead to close friend Maria Riesch of Germany.
U.S. skier Julia Mancuso took second, while Anja Paerson of Sweden — fearless despite a frightening crash on the same run on Wednesday — took the bronze.
Top Canadian honours went to Shona Rubens of Canmore, Alta., who finished 12th.
On the half-pipe at Cypress Mountain, Australia’s Torah Bright aced her second run after bailing out of her first, claiming the gold medal over American rival Hannah Teter. Kelly Clark, the 2002 champion, won bronze.
Mercedes Nicoll, 26, from Whistler, B.C., the only Canadian in the final, finished sixth. Sarah Conrad, 24, of Dartmouth, N.S., made it to the semifinals but failed to string together two clean runs.