PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – From the moment they first came together last summer at their high performance camp, this Canadian figure skating team has been on a mission.
Consider it mission accomplished.
Four years after placing second to Russia in the inaugural Olympic figure skating team event in Sochi, the Canadians finished what they set out to do early Monday, clinching the first gold medal for Canada at the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games.
Canada finished the event with a staggering 73 points, seven more than the Olympic Athlete from Russia team. The U.S. took bronze with 62 points.
The Canadian squad arrived in PyeongChang with a quiet confidence and a collective focus on doing what needed to be done to take that one step higher on the podium.
Somehow, it only seemed fitting that Patrick Chan, the three-time world and ten-time Canadian champion, would play an integral part on the final day as he finally laid claim to that elusive gold medal, about the only piece of hardware missing from his crowded trophy case.
“In a big way, we want to do this for Chiddy,” said Scott Moir before the final day of competition, referring to Chan by his nickname.
“I think that’s what makes it so special.”
Thanks in part to Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s sterling performance in the pairs free program a day earlier, where they finished first and collected a vital 10 points for Canada, the Canadians held a comfortable six-point lead on the OAR squad heading into the final day. Canada marched out Chan, Gabrielle Daleman, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir – the reigning Canadian champions in their respective disciplines – to try to close the deal and win Canada’s first gold medal of these Games.
Any hopes the OAR had of a final-day comeback were essentially put out of reach when Chan led off by scoring 179.75 to win the men’s free program. Daleman, who recently captured her second national title in Vancouver, followed up with a third-place showing in the women’s free.
By then, it was just a formality, and Virtue and Moir laid down a mesmerizing free dance to put an exclamation mark on a dominating performance by the Canadian team.
“It was nerve-wracking heading into this long program,” said Chan. “I haven’t been that nervous in a while.
“At the end of the day, a medal’s a medal,” added Chan. “I’m going to hold this medal tight to me, and it’s going to be as good as the individual event. That’s how I’m going to see it, that’s how I’m going to enjoy it and that’s for me to decide.”
“We are a tight-knit group here in Canada. We can now embrace each other and know that collectively we did something amazing.”
“That was a great skate,” added Daleman. “I just skated with all my heart. We have such an incredibly strong team. I’m so glad we were able to make Canada proud this week.”
The Canadians will now turn their attention to the figure skating individual events, which get underway with the pairs short program Tuesday at 8:00 PM ET.
But before then, there will be a little time for this team to realize what they’ve just accomplished. Not only is the gold the first for this country at these Games, it is the first Olympic figure skating gold since Virtue and Moir stood atop the podium eight years ago.
Virtue and Moir will now add a second Olympic gold medal to their resume. For Chan, Duhamel and Radford, Daleman and Kaetlyn Osmond, it is their first.
Although the rest of the 17-athlete Canadian team won’t step up the podium with their teammates, they stood as one, waving the Maple Leaf and cheering their teammates through the entire competition.
“We’ve all known each other for so long that it’s just this incredible story that we’ve all been through and it’s coming to its conclusion,” said Radford.
“We want to make it the best possible.”
That’s why this gold is so special.
It’s for their themselves. For their teammates. For Canada.
And, yes, for Chiddy.