February 17, 2014 - 11:23 AM
SOCHI, Russia - Jennifer Jones was perfect. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were oh so close.
Shortly after Jones wrapped up a flawless round robin in women's curling with a 9-4 win over South Korea on Monday, Virtue and Moir skated a riveting free program in the ice dance to assure Canada its 15th medal of the Sochi Olympics.
But while the Canadians gave their all in their attempt to defend the ice dance gold they won at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White were just as compelling in their free program.
In the end the favourites from the United States took gold, while Virtue and Moir settled for silver in their Olympic swan song.
"We would have liked to bring home gold for Canada but no one close to us will love us any less because we're bringing home silver," Virtue said.
That silver gave Canada 15 medals overall (four gold, seven silver, four bronze) after Day 11 of the Sochi Games. Canada was tied for fourth with Norway, behind host Russia and the United States (18 medals each) and the Netherlands (17 medals, 16 in long-track speedskating).
Germany still has the most gold medals overall with seven.
Canada's goal is to win more medals than any other country in Sochi. At least one more piece of hardware is guaranteed as the women's hockey team got by Switzerland 3-1 to set up a gold-medal showdown with the archrival United States. Canada is going for its fourth Olympic gold medal in a row.
And additional medals from Canada's curlers are a strong possibility. Jones knew her Winnipeg rink was going to be the top-ranked team in the semifinals going into Monday's match with South Korea, but her Winnipeg rink still put an exclamation point on its round-robin by improving to 9-0 and becoming the first women's team to qualify for the semifinals with an undefeated record.
"In my opinion, this is one of the toughest fields that has ever been assembled for women's curling," Jones said. "To go through undefeated, and to go into the Olympic record books, is pretty awesome."
Edmonton's Kevin Martin, who did it four years ago in Vancouver, is the only other curler to go through the preliminary round undefeated.
Jones will face world champion Eve Muirhead and her rink from Britain in the semifinals on Wednesday. Canada beat Britain 9-6 in the round-robin after Muirhead missed a potential game-winning shot in the final end.
"Now you start fresh," said Jones. "And everyone's on an even record."
Brad Jacobs' rink was idle as the men's round-robin ended on Monday. The foursome from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., will face surprising China in the semifinals.
It was not surprising that the United States and Canada finished in the top two spots in the ice dance. Virtue and Moir and Davis and White, who train together and share the same coach, have dominated every world championship and Olympic Games since 2010.
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., finished with 190.99 points after collecting 114.66 in the free dance. The pair has said Sochi is their final Olympics.
"This is the biggest stage in the world so, of course, it's stressful," said Virtue. "It's a pretty ambitious program, and it's a loaded program, and I think we did it pretty well.
"We felt immense pressure. We trained 17 years for this moment."
White and Davis finished first with 195.52 points, including 116.63 in the free dance, to become the first American champions ever in the event.
Canada and United States will renew their rivalry in another sport when the North American foes face off Thursday in the women's hockey gold-medal game.
Canada moved to its fifth straight Olympic final with a tighter-than-expected win over Switzerland. Natalie Spooner scored twice and Melodie Daoust also beat Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling, who was otherwise spectacular with a 45-save performance.
Shannon Szabados stopped 21 shots for Canada.
"It's going to be a battle," said forward Meghan Agosta-Marciano. "It always is when we play against them. But we've been training for this all year and we are prepared. It doesn't matter what happened when we beat them in the preliminary round."
There was much discussion on the level of competition in women's hockey after the United States trounced Sweden 6-1 in the other semifinal. But Switzerland showed the sport is growing outside North America with an admirable performance against the three-time gold medallists.
"All credit to them, they really turned it on and they made us fight," Canada forward Haley Irwin said. "They had chances and made it really tough for us tonight and Schelling obviously made some great saves and really held them in there."
Canada had another chance to add to its medal title in the two-man bobsled on Wednesday when Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., and Bryan Barnett of Edmonton started the fourth and final run in fourth place. But they had a bumpy ride on their final trip down the track and finished sixth.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014