Relay squad baits Dutch into DQ
‘Trap door’ ploy paves way to final
As Charles Hamelin likes to say, short track feeds you glory one day, heartache the next. It has a similar delivery system from one Olympics to another.
Four years after the Canadian men’s team suffered a semifinal disaster in Sochi and missed the relay final, the 2018 squad survived the event’s requisite chaos and the added complication of Samuel Girard’s damaged skate blade to advance and keep its podium dreams alive.
“Four years ago, we were kind of heartbroken. For us, this is a redemption,” said Charle Cournoyer. “Sochi, it was a big mess for us. It was bad luck.
“Now we are doing great. The team spirit is really high up. We’ve been training super hard and performing super well on the World Cup circuit. So we came here super confident of our performance.”
But you never know whether short track has glory or heartache waiting for you at the finish line. And when Girard, their last skater in the 5,000-metre fracas, was sent flying into the mats by Dutchman Sjinkie Knegt through the final turn, the fates of both teams were in the hands of the referee.
“I saw the Dutch coming really fast. I was just trying to make him do a harder pass,” said Girard, a 21-year-old Olympic rookie. “He hit me in my arms. I just tried to stay up until the finish line. I fell into the mats.”
Knegt was penalized for the aggressive move and the Netherlands was disqualified, putting China and Canada into the A final with Korea and Hungary.
“He had to do it, it was his last chance,” Cournoyer said of Knegt. “If he stayed behind Sam through the turn, Sam would have probably made it to the line in second place. And he would have no pass. He went for a gamble. He went for do or die.”
He did and his team’s dreams died. That’s short track. Knegt was in an untenable position in third place — only the top two advance — and Girard baited him with a wide turn through the final corner.
“I just wanted to make it difficult to pass me. I took a lot of room on the ice so he had not a big choice. He had one little door,” said Girard.
“The door was a trap,” said Cournoyer.
But it was all the life Knegt had, given the second-last exchange between his teammates Itzhak de Laat and Daan Breeuwsma didn’t go well.
“We lost five or six metres and then Sjinkie had to do everything by himself in the last two laps, which was super hard,” said de Laat. “It was all or nothing, so he just saw a tiny, tiny chance and he jumped for it. It’s amazing that he could close such a gap in the last two laps. But it wasn’t enough.”
I felt like I just had Thanksgiving out there. It sounds so stupid and it is so stupid, but I misgauged it. That’s how racing goes. You make mistakes like that.
U.S. SPEEDSKATER BRIAN HANSEN, who entered the men’s
1,500-metre race ranked third in the world and finished a disappointing 15th after eating too much of his usual pre-race meal.
China’s Wu Dajing, France’s Sebastien Lepape and Canada’s Charles Hamelin compete in a men’s 1,000-metre short-track speedskating heat Tuesday at Gangneung Ice Arena. Hamelin and the 5,000-metre relay team, meanwhile, advanced Tuesday to the final.