Emily Brydon didn’t win a medal at today’s Super-G slalom. She didn’t even complete the race, wiping out long before the finish line came into view. But a few minutes later, when the soon-to-be retired skier finally did reach the bottom of the hill, the hometown crowd at Whistler Creekside erupted into a gold-medal frenzy.
Brydon’s Olympic career was officially over—her podium dreams dashed for good—and the fans wanted to acknowledge her efforts. “I’ve never been more honoured to be Canadian,” said Brydon, 29, her watery eyes hidden by a pair of large sunglasses. “The Olympic Games are a very emotional thing. It is so powerful and so full of passion and spirit, and I laid my heart and soul onto that track. And because it didn’t work out, I think it’s even more emotional.”
Sadly, “Didn’t Work Out” has become the unofficial catchphrase of Canada’s alpine ski team, which has failed to snag even a single medal on home snow. What was supposed to be a downhill showcase in our own backyard has been downgraded to a daily discussion about why everything is going so horribly wrong. Yesterday, it was the men who missed the podium at the Super-G. Today, it was the ladies. “It’s frustrating because we know the potential,” said Brydon, 29. “But potential isn’t results, and unfortunately in the world of sports, results matter.”
Today’s results went like this: Andrea Fischbacher of Austria won the gold, with a flawless run of 1:20.63. The silver went to Tina Maze of Slovenia, while American superstar Lindsey Vonn took the bronze, her second medal of the 2010 Games. The top Canadian was Vancouver native Britt Janyk, who finished a distant 17th. Georgia Simmerling, also of Vancouver, placed 27th, while Canmore’s Shona Rubens missed a turn and did not finish. “Obviously, I’m frustrated and disappointed that I didn’t walk away with a medal because I know I could be there,” said Janyk, who placed a respectable sixth in Wednesday’s downhill event. “But I also know it’s not easy. It’s very, very, very difficult in Alpine skiing to win a gold.”
Janyk acknowledged that the Canadian team had ample opportunity to train on the Whistler slopes, and she didn’t try to pin the no-medal blame on unrealistic hype or hometown pressure. “We came in with high expectations, and that’s how we should have come in because we knew that we could be in the medals,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a failure, because we raced hard. We can just ask ourselves to go out and ski our best, and some days it’s tenth and some days it’s first.”
Or, as in Brydon’s case, it’s a nasty spill that left her scraped, bruised, and barely able to crouch for the mandatory post-race urine test. “I won’t forget that one,” she joked afterwards. “It’s definitely not what I’d hoped or envisioned or planned. You know, there are so many possibilities out there for greatness and there are so many opportunities, and it just wasn’t my time. I wasn’t able to capitalize.”
When asked if those Canadian fans cheering in the stands should be disappointed by her team’s performance, Brydon pointed out, quite rightly, that not every race has been a total disaster. Along with Janyk’s top-six finish in the women’s downhill, Erik Guay missed a bronze in the men’s Super G by a mere three one-hundredths of a second. “For sure you want to be the best in your home. That is without a doubt and it goes without saying. But you know what? The best skiers are winning,” she said. “I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, but I gave it my best and I know my best on good days is enough to win. But it just wasn’t here.”
It was for Fischbacher, who—unlike her Canadian competitors—managed to swipe a very large monkey off her entire team’s back. Until today, ski-mad Austria had managed only one alpine medal (a bronze) but Fischbacher’s dominating run ended the golden drought. “It is just crazy,” she said. “A dream is coming true.”
Canada’s alpine skiers have five chances left to snag that same dream, beginning with the men’s Super Combined tomorrow (a two-heat race of downhill and slalom). Brydon will be in street clothes, rooting for her teammates. “You can’t stop believing,” she said. “You can’t. As soon as you stop believing, the results will stop coming.”
But first they have to start coming.