Re­lay squad baits Dutch into DQ

‘Trap door’ ploy paves way to fi­nal

Edmonton Journal - - WINTER OLYMPICS - DAN BARNES dbarnes@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/sports­dan­barnes

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.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

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.

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