By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Canada has long dominated both ice hockey and curling but a stunning string of Olympic defeats in the country’s beloved sports at the Pyeongchang Games has left the nation in an unfamiliar state of mourning.
Perhaps the biggest blow to the country’s psyche came on Friday when the men’s hockey team, who were twice defending champions, lost a semi-final clash to Germany.
That came hours after it was assured Canada would not medal in men’s or women’s curling for the first time since that sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998.
“Dark day for Canadian hockey,” read the headline on the online edition of Canada’s National Post newspaper. The Toronto Sun headline read: “Olympic shocker” and called the loss “a dark night for a Hockey Canada program that bills itself as a world leader in the sport.”
While the absence of National Hockey League players in South Korea has created a more wide-open men’s tournament, Canada were still heavy favorites to beat a Germany team that earned only their second victory in 30 meetings with Canada in Olympic and world championship play.
The men’s loss came just one day after the women’s side were denied a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal in a shootout against rivals United States.
Canada is already assured of its highest Winter Olympics medal count — 27 with two days of competition remaining — but for a country whose C$5 bill shows children playing hockey, anything but gold in that sport leaves a bitter taste.
In curling, Canada will go home with only one of a possible three medals, a stunning result for a country that had dominated the sport for the last 20 years. Canadian men had previously never missed a final and won the last three Olympic curling titles while the women were atop the podium four years ago in Sochi.
Canada took gold last week in curling mixed doubles, a new event at these Olympics, but were shut out in the traditional team format as the men lost the bronze medal game to Switzerland on Friday two days after the women’s team missed the playoffs.
“Misery loves company,” was the National Post’s headline after Canada’s loss to Switzerland ensured two of the country’s three curling teams would go home empty handed.
Cathal Kelly, a columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail, wrote that the country’s curling shortcomings in Pyeongchang serve as a reminder that there is no such thing as an Olympic monopoly.
“Canada will always be the world’s great curling nation, but it does not follow that we will always be the very best at it,” Kelly wrote. “That’s the difference between pride in ownership and covetousness.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)