GANGNEUNG, South Korea — At mid-ice, the Canadians gathered for a group huddle that turned into a massive hug.
They earned it: Gold for Canada.
While the stars of Monday’s Olympic free skates were a Russian and an American woman, Canada’s deep squad grabbed the team gold medal it so desperately sought.
“We’re born on the ice,” said ice dancer Scott Moir, who with partner Tessa Virtue tied an Olympic figure skating record with four medals. “We think we’re the best in the world. Winning this is like winning hockey and winning curling.”
The top spot was clinched when Gabrielle Daleman finished third behind Russian Alina Zagitova and American Mirai Nagasu in the women’s event. That gave Canada 63 points to 58 for the Russians with only the ice dance remaining. The Russians could pick up a maximum of four points in that discipline.
The United States repeated its showing in the 2014 Sochi Games with a bronze medal.
Just before Daleman’s clincher, Patrick Chan won the men’s free skate against a weakened field, and with a mediocre performance.
Regardless, Canada’s quest for a medal its skaters said they set about winning ever since they wound up second in Sochi was complete with one program remaining.
“I worked my butt off incredibly hard these past four years to get on this team,” Daleman said. “We have such an incredible, strong team, and I’m proud to say we’ve won and I’m prouder to have been part of it.”
With their team gold medal assured, Virtue and Moir tied the record for most Olympic medals won by figure skaters. Evgeni Plushenko and Gillis Grafstrom also won four apiece.
“Obviously the skaters in generations before us didn’t have the opportunity to win multiple medals at an Olympic Games,” Moir said. “We recognize that. But what we do realize — and I think I learned this from Evgeni Plushenko actually — is a lot of things have to go right. You have to be pretty fortunate to do multiple games and have a shot at medals. When I look at that, I just think of how fortunate we’ve been to compete on the world’s best scale.”