PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Freestyle skier Alex Beaulieu-Marchand used the best run of his life to boost Canada’s medal total at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Sunday.
The 23-year-old from Quebec City captured bronze in the men’s slopestyle competition after recording 92.40 points on his second run.
“I had this crazy feeling, I was skiing so good today,” he said. “I have never skied that good in my life.”
Beaulieu-Marchand finished behind gold medallist Oystein Braaten of Norway, who scored 95.00, and silver medallist Nick Goepper of the U.S., who scored 93.60.
In slopestyle, each skier has three runs down a course that features rails and jumps. Their best score counts.
Beaulieu-Marchand skied well throughout the final, scoring 81.60 on his first run and 82.40 on his third.
“The jumps I was landing so consistently, those are jumps I have barely practised,” he said. “I did more triple flips today than I did in my entire life before.”
Olivier Rochon of Gatineau, Que., had a chance to add to Canada’s freestyle skiing medal haul when he qualified second for the men’s aerials final. But he couldn’t land his cleanly and finished in fifth place in his Olympic debut.
Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., and Alexander Kopacz of London, Ont., look poised for a medal in two-man bobsled after sitting in second place after two runs. The final two runs go Monday.
In men’s hockey, Team Canada defeated a scrappy South Korean squad 4-0 in its round-robin finale. Canada finished second in its group, behind the Czech Republic, but advanced directly into the quarterfinals as the best second-place team.
It was a day mixed of mixed results for Canada in curling, with Rachel Homan coming back to beat Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni 10-8 while Kevin Koe fell 8-6 to Switzerland’s Peter De Cruz.
Canada sat third in the overall medal standings after nine days of competition with 16 — five gold, five silver and six bronze. Norway led with 26, followed by Germany with 18.
Norway and Germany each have nine gold medals, followed by the Netherlands with six and Canada and the United States with five apiece.
At the Phoenix Park freestyle skiing venue, Beaulieu-Marchand said he’s come a long way from the Sochi Games four years ago when he finished 12th.
“Today was an unreal contest, the craziest contest I have ever seen,” he said. “I came here just to show the world what I can do on my skis and that’s what I did.”
Teal Harle of Campbell River, B.C., had 90.00 points in his final run to finish fifth. Evan McEachran of Oakville, Ont., scored 89.40 points in sixth place.
Later, Rochon attempted a challenging back lay-triple full-full jump but missed his landing — and a place on the men’s aerials podium. He was the only one to complete it in the semifinal.
“It’s been four years that I’ve practised it on water because it’s a really difficult jump,” Rochon said. “And like we were able to see, it doesn’t work all the time, even if it’s exactly what you wanted to do.”
Oleksandr Abramenko gave Ukraine its third-ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics, edging China’s Jia Zongyang. Ilia Burov of the Olympic athletes from Russia earned bronze.
On the ice, it was a victory, if an unconvincing one, for Team Canada in its final men’s hockey preliminary-round game.
Canada had a hard time disposing of host South Korea, looking ordinary for large parts of its victory over the hockey minnow.
Third-period goals by Maxim Lapierre and Gilbert Brule helped make the score look more flattering for Canada, which struggled for two periods to assert its superiority.
While Canada emerged victorious, a game Korean side and its loyal fans had a night to remember. They hung tough with a Canadian squad that, while not NHLers, plays in far better leagues than the so-called Asia League Ice Hockey circuit that is home to all the Koreans.
Canada has 20 Olympic men’s hockey medals (13 gold, five silver and two bronze). Korea — bolstered by seven North American imports — was playing its third-ever Olympic game and four years ago didn’t own a skate-sharpener or glove-dryer.
Christian Thomas and Eric O’Dell also scored for Canada, which fired 40-plus shots at Canadian-born goalkeeper Matt Dalton.
On the sliding track, Kripps and Kopacz enter the final two runs of two-man bobsled one-10th of a second back of leaders Nico Walther and Christian Poser of Germany.
“I think we have a great shot,” said Kripps.
Kripps is one of the favourites in Pyeongchang after a banner Wolrd Cup season. He won a gold, three silvers and a bronze in two-man bobsled to claim the season’s overall title, never finishing lower than fourth in the circuit’s eight races.
In curling, Ottawa’s Homan scored three points in the ninth end and stole a single in the 10th as Canada improved to 2-3 with a second consecutive victory.
Tirinzoni missed both of her shots in the ninth and Homan delivered a hit to move into the lead. The Swiss skip was heavy with her final throw in the 10th to give Canada a point and the victory.
“We made some huge shots, some really precision soft-weight shots,” Homan said. “We had to make (them) and we had to make them all.”
Koe, meanwhile, suffered his second straight loss to fall to 4-2. He was coming off a 5-2 defeat against Sweden a day earlier.
Benoit Schwarz, Switzerland’s vice-skip who throws fourth stones, scored four points in the opening end for a commanding early lead. Schwarz’s big score was set up by a missed shot from Koe.
“I thought the start sucked. What more can you say?” said Koe. “You give up four in the first end, especially missing the way I did. That was the game.”
In other results Marsha Hudey of White City, Sask., was 10th and Winnipeg’s Heather MacLean was 14th in women’s 500-metre speed skating. Meanwhile, the men’s pursuit team finished seventh in qualifying and failed to advance to the quarterfinals.
Erik Read of Calgary was the top Canadian of the men’s giant slalom in 11th. And in cross-country skiing, Canada finished ninth in the men’s 4×10-kilometre relay.
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