Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond wins Olympic bronze medal in women's figure skating

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond reacts at the end of her performance in the women's figure skating free program at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Friday, February 23, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond reacts at the end of her performance in the women's figure skating free program at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Friday, February 23, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of — In the four years since Kaetlyn Osmond finished 13th at the Sochi Olympics, she broke her leg and almost quit. Then she became one of the greatest female figure skaters on the planet.

The 22-year-old from Marystown, N.L., captured a historic bronze medal at the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Friday, the punctuation mark on the Canadian team's finest Olympic figure skating performance ever.

In the moments after, Osmond thought of the gruesome broken leg that almost drove her out of the sport, and she was so thankful that it happened.

"It feels like forever ago," Osmond said. "To think that I almost hung up my skates then and called it quits, it's amazing.

"But I don't think I would have been able to perform the way I did today without that injury. I re-grouped and almost became a new person afterwards. I had to mature. I had to refocus on how to stay on the ice and feel strong. And I don't think I would have been able to perform this choreography as good as I could without that experience."

Skating to "Black Swan," in a program that was the perfect mix of elegance and power, the reigning world silver medallist landed seven triple jumps en route to 152.15 points, for a combined score of 231.02. Dressed in black, her hair pulled up in a tight ballerina bun — think Natalie Portman's character "Nina" — Osmond knelt on the ice afterward, hands on knees, grinning to herself.

"When I hit my ending position, I didn't want it to end. I wanted to enjoy every minute of it," Osmond said. 

Russia's Alina Zagitova, just 15 years old, scored a combined 239.57 to capture gold. Teammate and reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia won silver with 238.26 points.

Osmond broke her fibula in two places in a training accident in the fall of 2014 when she swerved to avoid another skater. Her bone snapped like a matchstick in two places, requiring two surgeries, a plate and seven screws.

The prospect of a comeback was daunting, her first days back on the ice terrifying. She took her first steps on the West Edmonton Mall ice at 7 a.m. — to avoid the curious eyes of shoppers. She clutched coach Ravi Walia, and it took them close to half an hour to circle the rink just once. Dad Jeff drove her to practice. Mom Jackie was too frightened to watch for the first few weeks.

Osmond was fearless on Friday, and when the TV camera found her parents in the Gangneung Ice Arena afterward, Jackie was sobbing into Jeff's chest.

Osmond smiled at that image.

"That's often at competitions, to see how I can make my mom cry. It's not that hard," she laughed. "I saw them before I skated, on the warmup I figured out where they were. And then I lost them I didn't know where to look after I finished skating.

"But I saw them when I was on the podium. I could see my mom crying from there."

Osmond's bronze was Canada's first in Olympic women's singles since Joannie Rochette was third at the 2010 Vancouver Games just after her mom died of a heart attack.

The day was much different for Gabrielle Daleman, who fell three times, and appeared at one point like she might stop altogether, her faced twisted in disappointment.

Daleman, who's the reigning world bronze medallist and won last month's Canadian championships, was deducted 4.00 points for the falls, and finished 15th overall. She bolted for the dressing room where she said she cried for 20 minutes, and credited Rochette for reaching out. A friend and mentor to Daleman, Rochette first texted and then called.

"She just said we all have bad days at the office, we don't know why it happens, we don't know how it happens, it's just sport and she just said she's sending all her love," said Daleman, who was a puddle of tears when she finally came to speak with reporters.

Asked there was anything she could take from the performance, Daleman couldn't hold back the sobs.

"There's nothing really I felt good about, and it's kind of hard for dragging my dad and my brother all the way from Canada to see this when it's not me," she said. "And I feel bad for all these people that I didn't skate properly for them, and the same with Canada. I do feel bad and like I disappointed everyone."

Osmond's medal was Canada's 27th in Pyeongchang, pushing the country to an all-time high at the Winter Games.

Skate Canada's Mike Slipchuk made a mental note when he saw Canada's Kelsey Serwa and Brittany Phelan going 1-2 in the women's skicross earlier in the day.

"That was in the back of my mind," Slipchuk said with a smile. "I thought, 'OK, we're the first gold of the Games and we can be the first ones to put us over to 27."

The Canadian skaters opened the Games with a gold in the team event.  

"I just really think this team as a whole . . . it's just so good to see this team peak the way they did," Slipchuk said. "It's so cool. I'm just so proud of them as a whole."

Osmond's medal also ensured Canada of four figure skating medals — two gold and two bronze — a best-ever showing for the team. Their previous high was three from the 1988 Calgary Games and the Sochi Olympics four years ago.

Osmond and Daleman will now be looked to as leaders of a Canadian team that will have to rebuild after these Olympics. Among those retiring are ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won double gold in Pyeongchang, three-time world champion Patrick Chan, and two-time world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who captured bronze.

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