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Scott Russell - Wednesday Feb. 19, 2014 19:35

Field of Play: 'B' is for a 'Box Office' Day 12

A beauty, a beast, a breakthrough and Bjorndalen

Day 12 was one of those days that proved the Olympics are the greatest spectacle on Earth
Clockwise from left, the Canada/Latvia hockey game, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, Ole Einar Bjorndalen and Yuna Kim made Day 12 a banner day. (Getty Images)

A dozen days are done but on the one that’s only just now in the rear view mirror, it all came together at the Olympics.

This day had something of everything that makes the Games the greatest spectacle on the face of the Earth. And from most vantage points, particularly that of a Canadian whose been a witness to 11 gatherings of this kind, it was as close to being box office as it’s ever going to get.

Let’s start with the BEAUTY of figure skating.

Unlike the men, the ladies delivered a stunning show at the Iceberg Skating Palace as they began with the short program. Yuna Kim, the defending Olympic champion, returned from a season of hibernation to skate almost flawlessly and prove that she’s as great again in her pursuit of another gold medal.

In addition, the five-time European champion and former world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy was sublime as she enchanted the full house with Ave Maria.

And yes, the two Russian teenagers, Yulia Lipnitskaya and Adelina Sotnikova, gave the desperate fans just enough cause for hope in the wake of an early exit by the highly touted men’s hockey team.

The result was a sort of love-in for figure skating in what might be considered the motherland of the sport. It was, at the very least, a welcome revival.

Then there was a BEAST of a hockey game for the Maple Leaf men.

The match was nearly stolen by an almost unheard of Latvian goalie named Kristers Gudlevskis. The high powered Canadians pummelled him with 57 shots and he frustrated the talented crew with save after acrobatic save.

In the end, Canada tamed the Latvian beast but only just, and survived what they thought would be a cakewalk in order to continue the hunt for a precious gold medal.

While it was gut-wrenching to watch it was, in a weird sort of way, an affirmation of the fact that anything can, and sometimes does happen, in sport.

A couple more bad bounces and the beast would have prevailed.

Then there was the BOBSLEIGH BREAKTHROUGH.

Kaillie Humphries of Calgary and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., stayed the course in order to deliver a dramatic gold medal victory at the Sanki Sliding Centre.

And to make it more effective it was a come-from-behind effort. The last run of four and a near perfect line as the uncompromising pilot, Humphries, got a mighty push from the best brakeman on the planet, Moyse, to vanquish the American challengers.

What a story.

Champions at home in Vancouver in 2010 and then re-united in the early autumn of 2013 to push to gold again in Russia. It’s the first time that a women’s sled has ever repeated as Olympic gold medallist.

Finally, this one may have slipped by most North American fans of the Olympics on this blockbuster Day 12.

It’s a very big deal.

In the debut mixed biathlon relay, Ole Einar BJORNDALEN of Norway, a 40-year-old who has competed at five Olympics, helped his team win the gold medal.

In front of an enormous crowd at the Laura biathlon venue in what is one of, if not Europe’s most popular winter sports, Bjorndalen ascended to the throne of the Olympic Winter Games as the most decorated athlete in history.

The relay gold was Bjorndalen’s second gold of these Games and the 13th of his career, giving him one more than his legendary countryman, the cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bjorndalen many times in the past as I called the races at biathlon for four Olympics. This record of success couldn’t have been earned by a nicer guy or a more deserving champion.

Bjorndalen has already announced that these will be his last Games and he’s running to be elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission. Seeing as how he’s now the most successful winter Olympian in the annals of the Games, few are likely to vote against him.

All in all, Day 12 was pretty spectacular and as I roamed around the CBC Olympic Daytime studio acting as a sort of traffic cop getting viewers from one sport to the other, I imagined that I was kind of like the ring master at a fantastic circus.

It was wild and we were all under the big top at the Olympics.

And the only thing I can think of to say is that it was BOX OFFICE.


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