Funny how perspectives change overnight: Kristina Groves' bronze medal in women's 3,000-meter speedskating Sunday feels like more of a win for Canada than mogulist Jennifer Heil's silver the previous night.
Groves (pictured) hung on for Canada 's second medal by 0.03 second over Germany's Daniela Anschutz Thoms, who skated in the last pairing. It was a salve, something to rub on the burn caused by that doughnut in the gold-medal column for the Maple Leaf on the opening weekend.
Why? The 3,000 meters has historically been unkind to Canada, so you may consider bronze found money. It's the 'tweener race, too long for a sprinter and too short for an endurance skater. Groves – the down-to-earth veteran from Ottawa, the nation's capital – and fellow veterans Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen have a lot of notoriety, but it's not their signature race. Typically it's dominated by the lodestars in long track, Germany and the Netherlands.
That was the reality even before the Czech Republic's Martina Sablikova – delayed about 20 minutes because a Zamboni leaked water on the track – blew the lid off the Richmond Olympic Oval. Her 2.09-second winning margin over Germany's Stephanie Beckert, the silver medalist, was the largest in the event since Gunda Niemann's victor by 2.98 in Albertville in 1992. Sablikova set the bar impossibly high.
Meantime, a tip of the cap is due Klassen, who was 14th. This is her victory lap, coming off double knee surgery in 2008. She skated all-out, and it's nice to think that carried over to solid skates by Groves and Hughes, who finished fifth.
One does get the sense it should start to pick up for Canada. Always darkest before the dawn, eh?