They were so proud, so poised, so gracious.
Sure, the colour of the medal may be a shade off from the one the Canadian Olympic figure skating team quietly envisioned as the inaugural team event dawned last week, but this team, one that spends much of their year competing against, and not for, one another, made a nation proud under the shadows of the towering Olympic flame Sunday night.
And as for that silver medal earned, they’ll wear it well.
Sometimes, even when your dreams are a little loftier, being second-best is good enough. If you watched the performance of the Russian team in Sochi – from Volosozhar and Trankov to Lipnitskaya and Plushenko – you got the sense destiny was on Russia’s side, to win this maiden team competition, gold on home soil after a dismal Vancouver Games four years ago. There seemed to be a feeling after that first day – when Russians took 19 of a possible 20 points – that everyone else was skating for silver.
In the eight events making up the team competition, Russia claimed the maximum 10 points in five of them.
But we learned something about this Team Canada over these past few days. Not just about those nine athletes who contributed to bring Canada its fourth medal of these Games, but also the team members who weren’t called upon to compete, who yelled and cheered themselves hoarse all week long. We learned that in a sport that is often as individual as can be, this team element was something different, something special, something always to be remembered.
This was a team letting each teammate know, “You go out and do your thing. We’ve got your back.”
“It’s incredibly meaningful to us to be able to share it with the whole team,” said Tessa Virtue, who claimed ice dance gold with partner Scott Moir four years ago in Vancouver. “There were a lot of personal bests here and I can’t wait to stand on the podium with everyone.”
“It was a great event for the young skaters,” added Moir. “We had Kaetlyn Osmond out there, 18 years-old, and we asked her to do two skates at an Olympic Games. The great thing about the team is that everyone pulled their weight. We’re so proud of our team.”
On this final day of the competition, although they weren’t saying it out loud, you knew deep down the Canadians conceded they weren’t going to be climbing up to the top step of the podium. But when High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk went to the bullpen and summoned Kevin Reynolds for the men’s free, the 23-year-old delivered.
Despite spending most of the season on the shelf trying to correct a tedious skate boot issue, Reynolds, having lived in the shadow of three-time world champion Patrick Chan in recent years, went out and laid down a dazzling performance that rubber-stamped the silver for Canada.
“I’m glad that I could get the performance that I did tonight out the way,” said an elated Reynolds. “Considering that I didn’t know for sure if I would get to participate until only a few days ago, I think I did great. I’m glad I was able to contribute here.”
“It was amazing,” Reynolds told CBC after the competition ended. “From start to finish I could hear Team Canada cheering me on in the background.”
Like Reynolds, Osmond was unable to compete for most of the season as she battled injuries. The youngster made a memorable return at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last month, winning her second straight Canadian crown. Eight weeks after celebrating her 18th birthday, Osmond more than held her own against the world’s best in her first Olympic appearance.
“It feels good,” said Osmond. “I’m glad I could contribute to the team. I could feel the support of my team and I put out two good skates. I’m very happy with that.”
Now, with the team competition in the books, the Canadian team will go their separate ways to chase Olympic dreams in their individual events. No doubt, there will be both high and low moments over these next 10 days – there are the Olympic Games, after all – but you get the feeling this team may have a few more surprises left in store yet.
“I think it’s easy for a lot of us to get carried away with the medals, and wanting to bring more medals to the table for Canada,” Chan told CBC. “I think what we can all take from this event is we all got a chance to go out on the ice and really enjoy skating.”
“Each of us had a moment on the ice, and we all enjoyed it.”
“We’re all so proud to represent Canada,” beamed Virtue. “It’s so special to be part of this event. I think Canada really showed its true colours.”
Red, white and silver, indeed.