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Gilday's medal dreams shattered
Yk speedskater will finish off Olympic podium after relay team falls in 5,000-metre semifinal

James McCarthy
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 14, 2014

Short-track speedskating is one of those sports which can be unpredictable at the best of times.

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Michael Gilday's dreams of a medal were shattered after the team fell in the men's 5,000-metre semifinal at the 2014 Winter Olympics yesterday. - Patrice Lapointe/ photo

When it comes to the relay, it's even more unpredictable but some things usually stay the same, like Canada qualifying for the men's 5,000-metre final.

But unpredictability can also come back to bite you in the behind, like Canada not qualifying for the final.

In the one event where the country was a virtual lock for a medal, Quebec's Francois Hamelin fell and with it, went the medal dreams of the team and, in particular, Michael Gilday. This means the team cannot finish any better than sixth place during the B-final Feb. 21.

The fall happened in yesterday's semifinal and with Canada sitting in third place. There was a game plan in place and third place wouldn't have lasted for long. But when someone falls, plan B takes shape, which normally revolves around trying to haul butt and get back into the race.

That didn't happen.

Obviously, Gilday was heartbroken and said yesterday not winning a medal is like a kick in the nether regions.

"I don't have any words to describe it," he said. "We're all at a loss for words. The team is bummed out, disappointed and we don't know what to think. The relay means a lot to us as a team. Winning as a team is different than winning as an individual. I wanted nothing more than to win a medal for myself but I wanted to win a medal for the NWT. It would have been really cool to bring it home and show the kids that anything's possible."

Plan B involved making sure there was good coverage in the race in case someone fell and also making sure there were enough laps left in the race to catch up. That happened before at the World Cup event in Russia where there were 30 or so laps remaining in the race and the team ended up finishing third but they gave themselves a chance for the win.

"Right away, my head went into the mode of we had a good chance to catch up because there were about 22 laps left," said Gilday. "They got on the gas right away, like they should, and we closed the gap down, I think, to about five laps to go. But that's what I was thinking - we can't give up but this just sucks."

The disappointment in Gilday's voice was obvious and when you factor in the disqualification in the 1,500-metre event, it hasn't the best experience race-wise for Gilday.

But he said while the competition has been a disaster, he did everything he could to make sure he was ready.

"I was really happy with my preparation and training," he said. "Right around Christmas, I had that turning point in my season. My capabilities and technical stuff was right where I wanted it to be. The atmosphere in the Olympic Village is amazing. The NHL guys got here the other day and you're seeing all sorts of athletes from all types of sports and they're superstars in their sports. It's pretty amazing and awesome to be around."

Gilday also said he's been thankful for all the support he's received, whether it was the cards and letters

or the evening at the Fieldhouse when 70 or so people came out to spend the night and watch his first race early in the morning.

Even though Gilday's medal dreams went crashing down in the relay, he can hold his head up high for another reason. Pop Sugar, a celebrity gossip website, voted Gilday as one of the sexiest male Olympians in Sochi, joining other athletes such as American hockey players Zack Parise and Ryan Callahan, Canadian freestyle skier Matt Margett and Bruno Banani, a luger from Tonga.

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