December 07 2013 04:11PM
Dominique Maltais won silver and Kevin Hill took bronze in snowboard cross on Saturday, the only Canadians to finish on the podium at a World Cup event in Montafon, Austria.
Maltais was unable to pass Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic, who took gold. Still, it was a step up for the 32-year-old from Petite-Riviere-Saint-Francois, Que., who qualified ninth earlier in the day.
“I thought I was fast on the course and maybe I was a little too relaxed,” said Maltais of the qualification round. “I ended finishing with a time that wasn’t what I was hoping for.”
Maltais did not let that minor setback affect her, and she was able to concentrate on the actual races.
“The objective was to be more engaged and that’s what I did,” said Maltais. “The semifinals heat was stacked, even more so than the finals, so I wasn’t able to take anything for granted.”
Olympic champion Maelle Ricker, from Squamish, B.C., wasn’t able to take part in the race. She suffered a mild concussion in training and returned to her home.
Canada’s men’s long-track speed skating pursuit team qualified for the Winter Olympics on Saturday, placing eighth in a World Cup event in Berlin.
Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que, Toronto’s Jordan Belchos and Regina’s Lucas Makowsky finished in three minutes 46.80 seconds in the six-lap event. Makowsky and Giroux were on the winning team in Vancouver in 2010.
“Today was a success for our Team Pursuit team as Jordan Belchos, Mathieu Giroux and Lucas Makowski stepped up under pressure and secured an Olympic spot for Canada in Sochi — proving that no matter which three of the four of us skate a Team Pursuit race, we all have what it takes to get the job done,” said Denny Morrison, from Fort St. John, B.C., a substitute on the team.
The Netherlands (3:41.46) took gold, followed by South Korea (3:41.92) and Poland (3:43.81). Canada earned a quota spot for Sochi with the result.
Canada’s women’s team has already qualified for the Sochi Olympics but will still race on Sunday.
YURKIW 26TH IN DOWNHILL
Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany won her second women’s World Cup downhill in a row in Lake Louise, Alta. Hoefl-Riesch posted a time of one minute 55.09 seconds for her second win in as many days at the Alberta resort.
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was second in 1:55.43 followed by Austria’s Anna Fenninger in third in 1:55.56. U.S. ski star Lindsey Vonn was 10th.
Larisa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., was the lone Canadian and she placed 26th.
The Audi World Cup Lake Louise concludes with Sunday’s super-G.
SVINDAL’S STREAK SNAPPED
Patrick Kueng of Switzerland won a World Cup for the first time, ending the dominance of Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal in super-G on Saturday in Beaver Creek, Colo.
Kueng finished early and withstood a late charge from Otmar Striedinger of Austria, beating him by 0.24 seconds. Hannes Reichelt of Austria and Peter Fill of Italy tied for third.
Svindal’s streak of four straight super-G wins was halted. He made several mistakes along the tricky course and was seventh.
HARVEY TOP CANUCK
Alex Harvey was the top Canadian on Saturday, finishing 16th in the 15-kilometre event at a cross-country skiing World Cup event in Lillehammer, Norway.
Harvey, from St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., finished the Nordic track filled with steeps climbs and fast descents in 35 minutes 50.2 seconds.
“This is heavy racing right now being an Olympic year. Many of the Norwegians, Swedes and Russians are all fighting for spots at the Games so are skiing extremely fast,” said Justin Wadsworth, the head coach of Canada’s cross-country ski team. “Right now there is no Olympic pressure on us so we need to keep calm and stay focused on the process because you don’t want to be going this hard this early in the game.”
Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., placed 35th at 36:23.6, Devon Kershaw (37:03.7) of Sudbury, Ont., finished 56th and Jesse Cockney (37:44.2) of Canmore, Alta., was 68th.
December 06 2013 02:24PM
It was a time when Canada truly stood tall.
It spearheaded a key international committee leading the fight against apartheid.
It gave moral and financial support to apartheid’s opponents on the ground.
It gave its diplomats inside the country the freedom to take the fight wherever it saw fit — taking on tear gas, blasts from water cannon and threats of expulsion by South Africa’s racist regime.
Canada’s distinguished fight against apartheid should make every Canadian proud.
But that was then, former foreign minister Joe Clark reminded me recently.
He doubts Canada would take such a stand now — not under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.
“I think the bottom line is that these were the kinds of issues that interested (then prime minister) Brian Mulroney and myself and Flora MacDonald and Ray Hnatyshyn,” says Clark.
“It’s not the kind of issue that engages the attention of the present government.”
The Harper government has had “a much more exclusive focus on trade and military relations” in international relations, he says.
In his view, the leadership and commitment that made it all happen during the Mulroney years just doesn’t exist in today’s Ottawa.
“We were a very activist government in international affairs,” says Clark. “There were budgets for it. And there was a (public) willingness to support it.”
That support allowed Clark to tell his diplomats to do whatever they needed.
“We were given carte blanche to show the South African government that Canada and the Commonwealth abhorred apartheid,” says John Schram, who was chief political counsellor in the Canadian Embassy at the time. “And to do that, we were allowed to push the envelope to the absolute limit.”
I bumped into Schram and his wife, Alena — she managed Canada’s Dialogue Fund, which supported a raft of anti-apartheid organizations — during a police raid at Regina Mundi Catholic church in Soweto one Sunday.
South African police had surrounded the packed church and fired tear gas, then stormed inside using sjamboks — rhinoceros or hippopotamus hide whips — to beat any activist within swinging distance.
I remember one activist who had fallen to his knees, clutching the ankles of Fr. Dermot Mills as a police officer flailed away.
The Schrams were among the only Western diplomats there, bearing witness.
Some feel Canada’s role in opposing apartheid was the high water mark of Canada’s international diplomacy in the latter part of the 20th century, a kind of “soft power” before Harvard professor Joe Nye coined the term in the fall of 1990.
I count myself among them.
Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress appreciated Canada’s stand immensely.
In late February 1990, when Mandela made his first visit abroad, to Lusaka, Zambia, to confer with leaders of the African National Congress-in-exile and select African leaders, Clark was one of the few Westerners invited.
Glowingly introduced on stage by Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, Clark basked in waves of enthusiastic applause.
And when Mandela chose to visit the West, Canada was among the very first nations he visited.
Key to Canada’s distinctive role was Clark’s leadership of the Commonwealth’s then-influential anti-apartheid committee, which hounded the South African regime. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher was lukewarm in her support for the committee. But it made Clark a star in South Africa’s black townships.
I remember being taken by surprise when a young black activist in a destitute township not far from the Indian Ocean, chose to end an interview by heaping praise on Clark and Canada for their role in support of “the struggle.”
He urged Canada to keep up the pressure.
The roots of Canadian resistance actually go back to former prime minister John Diefenbaker.
Clark remembers he and another young fellow Progressive Conservative named Brian Mulroney welcomed Diefenbaker back home after he had played a key role in pushing South Africa out of the Commonwealth in 1960.
Diefenbaker told the assembled throng that there should “always be a light in the window” for South Africa to return once apartheid was over.
“Both of us felt that this was a part of the Progressive Conservative Party’s legacy,” Clark recalls. “And there was also broad public interest — a sense that this was one of those issues in which Canada could really play a role.”
The Americans had chosen the path of what they termed “constructive engagement” with the regime and were wary — as a superpower — of taking punitive action against South Africa.
Similarly the British, under Thatcher, had significant commercial interests to consider, as well as an honestly held skepticism about the effectiveness of economic sanctions.
Canada was better positioned than both to take a leading role in an international effort: unlike Britain, it had no complicating colonial ties; unlike the U.S. it had no superpower status; and yet it was a member of the group of G7 nations.
After South Africa’s foreign minister Roelof “Pik” Botha accused Clark of knowing nothing about South Africa, that he had never even visited, Clark seized the opportunity ahead of a 1987 Commonwealth meeting in Vancouver to fly to South Africa on short notice.
Today, Clark says he was worried that Thatcher was thinking about the same thing.
The British leader was not amused, when landing in Vancouver, to learn that Clark had beaten her to it.
“Brian handled her very well,” says Clark. “He always did.”
At the meeting, the Commonwealth decided to create a specific anti-apartheid committee, with Clark at its helm, to find new and creative ways to ramp up the pressure on South Africa.
Canada’s effort, above all, was “non-partisan,” Clark emphasizes.
The Canadian Labour Congress pitched in with its contacts on the ground inside South Africa’s labour movement.
Stephen Lewis, who distinguished Canada in discussions at the United Nations, helped with copious contacts among other African nations and developing countries.
But in the end it was Clark who took the flak. The South African government routinely vilified him.
Clark was acutely aware of it.
“But I would say Canada was really the target. I was the minister,” he says.
“I never took it personally.”
Bill Schiller, the Star’s former foreign editor, was the paper’s South Africa bureau chief from 1988 until 1992. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org