Canada’s Eliot Grondin takes silver by a sliver in snowboard cross thriller

By Sportsnet Staff

Canada’s Eliot Grondin won a silver medal in men’s snowboard cross on Thursday at the Beijing Olympics, falling just short of gold in a dramatic big final.

Three-time reigning World Cup champion Alessandro Haemmerle beat out Grondin in a photo finish, with the Austrian crossing the line two hundredths of a second ahead of the Canadian.

Grondin leaned forward on the final slope to try to outstretch Haemmerle and went tumbling into the snow — giving it his all for gold.

“Pretty unreal. I don’t even realize it yet,” Grondin told CBC. “My first Olympic Games was in 2018, I was 16 and had no expectations for myself over there. The last few years, just the momentum I’ve been carrying, all the experience and being on the podium last year a lot and winning my first World Cup … was a big boost of confidence. Just to leave here with a medal, it’s unreal. I can’t believe it.”

Omar Visintin of Italy won bronze in the four-man final.

A 20-year-old native of Sainte-Marie, Que., Grondin was dominant all day, posting the fastest time in the seeding run and then winning his first-round, quarterfinal and semifinal races.

It marked Canada’s 10th medal of the Olympics — one gold, three silver, six bronze.

Grondin took the lead at the start of the big final before Haemmerle made his move about midway through the race, overtaking the Canadian on a turn.

Grondin almost was caught from behind after that, but fought off the challenge and took one final run at the Austrian — ultimately settling for a well-deserved silver.

The Canadian positioned himself as an Olympic contender by finishing third at the World Championship last year while adding his first World Cup victory. He added two medals on the World Cup circuit this season.

“I got stronger with the years. But just a lot of experience,” Grondin said when asked why he has achieved better results in recent years. “I’m racing guys that are almost 30 years old and I’m just 20. They’ve been on the tour for so many more years than I have. Just getting to race more with those guys in big finals, getting the experience, for sure it helps a lot. Now I feel like I’m part of those big guys.”

Grondin gave Canada two medals in snowboard cross in Beijing after Meryeta O’Dine took bronze in the women’s event Wednesday.

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