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Momentum slows for Canada in Sochi after thrilling opening day of competition

Canada's Erik Guay reacts to his 10th place finish following his run during the Men's Downhill final at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada’s Erik Guay reacts to his 10th place finish following his run during the Men’s Downhill final at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Canadian Press

SOCHI, Russia - After riding the emotional high of winning gold, silver and bronze on the opening day of medal competition in Sochi, things cooled down a bit for Canada’s Olympic team on Sunday.

Canada entered the day with confidence after sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe capped Saturday’s competition with a bang, finishing first and second respectively in the women’s moguls. Snowboarder Mark McMorris added a bronze in men’s slopestyle.

But medal hopeful Spencer O’Brien couldn’t keep the momentum going. The 2013 world champion in women’s slopestyle snowboarding failed to duplicate her success in Sochi, botching landings halfway down the course in each run and finishing last in the 12-woman final.

A devastated O’Brien lamented she let Canada down.

“Sorry I’m just really disappointed right now,” she told reporters. “I had a really hard year coming back from some injuries. I was really happy to be riding the way I was here. I was just really excited to be a part of Team Canada. Just after watching Mark yesterday, I was really inspired to just try really hard to bring home a medal.

“I went for my hardest run and it didn’t work out today. So I’m really disappointed and really sad that I let Canada down.”

Several people took to social media to support O’Brien, including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

“Snowboarder @spencerobrien feels the weight of Canada on her shoulders in Sochi. Spencer - feel our pride & respect,” Hadfield posted on his Twitter account.

Canada also came up short in alpine and cross-country skiing, where the men’s teams had outside medal chances.

Despite the missed medal chances, Canada is still in good shape overall. With a silver medal in team figure skating all but guaranteed, Canada should enter Day 4 of the Sochi Games with at least four medals. They had three after the first two days of competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

And there’s legitimate potential for more hardware on Monday, with defending champion Alex Bilodeau and World Cup star Mikael Kingsbury competing in men’s moguls and Vancouver double-gold medallist Charles Hamelin taking part in the men’s 1,500-metre men’s short-track speedskating race.

In the women’s slopestyle, O’Brien appeared to lose her balance and leaned back on the snow midway through her first run before slipping out again on her second run. The Courtenay, B.C., native cut both runs short and took a slow ride down the side of the course instead of showing the high-flying spins and tricks she had planned.

“I felt great actually,” she said. “That’s why it was kind of like a sledgehammer a little bit.”

American Jamie Anderson won gold with a score of 95.25. Enni Rukajarvi of Finland took silver with 92.50 and Britain’s Jenny Jones earned bronze with 87.25.

In the men’s 30-kilometre cross-country skiathon, Alex Harvey of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canadian, finishing 18th with a time of one hour 10 minutes 00.5 seconds, while teamamte Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was 25th in 1:10:14.6,

Harvey was considered a medal threat after a strong World Cup season, that included two victories. Russian-born Babikov was fifth in the event at the Vancouver Olympics.

“In the classical portion, it was over after the second leg,” Harvey said. “We had zero grip, and we were not very fast either. We lost 45 seconds in that portion, and we were pushing at 100 per cent, when the other guys in front were only pushing at 75 to 80 per cent.”

On the slopes, Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in 10th. Guay entered the Olympics with a win and a third-place finish in World Cup competition, but had been troubled by a troublesome knee.

“I skied all right. I made some mistakes around the lake jump. The snow was getting soft, and I had new skis, but I did try, Guay said.

“I am disappointed, but after how I did this season, it’s OK.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014