Low-profile athletes picking up the slack

In hockey, they would call it secondary scoring; when the unlikeliest of heroes steps up and delivers when the big guns just aren’t firing.

So seems to be the case as the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver rolls on.

The expected medal hopefuls going into the games have largely faltered and sputtered to that dreaded fourth place finish or worse.

To name a few, Canada’s speed-skating Hamelin brothers, heavily favoured to finish on the podium, ended up in fourth and fifth place in the men’s 1000 metre short-track speed skating.

Dominique Maltais, Canada’s top hope for a women’s snowboarding medal, didn’t even qualify for the finals thanks to a tumble on the course.

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, Canada’s darlings of figure-skating, hoped to seize the moment after a horrific accident on the ice saw Davison’s skate slash Dube’s face open in 2008, but finished no better than sixth.

Jeremy Wotherspoon, speed skating in his career swan-song at the games and Canada’s best chance for the men’s 500 metre skate, ended up in ninth, while his teammate, Denny Morrison, expected to challenge for gold, placed 13th in the event.

Alpine skier Emily Brydon, a B.C. native, came into the games expected to win gold in her home province, and ended up with her best result being an 11th place finish.

The list goes on.

Numerous reasons have been given as to why these big fish have seemed to flounder so far; the pressure of winning at home and the distracting, rambunctious crowds are frequent responses, as is just a simple “I don’t know what went wrong.”

But it wasn’t supposed to go like this. Canada’s Own the Podium program was designed to fund athletes so these things wouldn’t happen.

Finishing first in the medal count now seems like wishful thinking with the United States running away with the competition at well over 20 medals.

But all is not lost, as there may be a hint of a silver lining for Canadians at these games.

Many lower-profile athletes have taken the reins for a nation hungry for glory.

Alexandre Bilodeau headlines a contingent of unexpected successes and surprise heavy-hitters, upsetting mystery-man and media-avoiding Canadian-turned-Australian Dale Begg-Smith in the men’s moguls.

Maelle Ricker succeeded where her teammate Maltais failed, taking home Canada’s first women’s gold medal on home soil with her spectacular performance in the snowboard cross.

Marianne St-Gelais, Charles Hamelin’s sweetheart, picked up the slack for her boyfriend, winning the silver in ladies’ speed skating at the tender age of 20.

Canada’s medal count may not be as high as some had predicted, but it’s very respectable thanks to the “secondary scorers”.

I think it’s time the faltering faces of Canada owed the new faces some drinks.