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MacLeod: Canada and U.S. should not have to apologize for dominance in women's hockey

Canada's Catherine Ward, left, and Hayley Wickenheiser celebrate a goal against Switzerland

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Canada and the United States are heading for another gold medal showdown in women's hockey on Thursday, the sport the two nations have utterly dominated at the Winter Olympics.

It will mark the third time the two nations will meet in the grand finale since the sport was first welcomed into the Olympic family in Nagano in 1998, the last time the Americans have managed to defeat the Canadians in an Olympic competition.

Since then, Canada has won three straight Olympic gold's, two of them against the Americans who will be looking to make amends for that on Thursday.

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"We're going for a different color this time around," said U.S. skater Julie Chu, who has earned two silvers and a bronze medal in her three previous Olympic competitions.

There have been continued suggestions that the future of women's hockey in the Olympics is in jeopardy due to a lack of competitive balance. Other than Canada and the U.S. the pickings are rather slim when it comes to women's hockey around the world.

The U.S. outshot Sweden 70-9 during its 6-1 semi-final victory while the Canadians had a more challenging outing during a 3-1 triumph over Switzerland.

Canada and the U.S. should not have to apologize to anybody for its domination of the game at the Olympic level.

The warm weather in Sochi has been a headache for organizers struggling to make sure that the snow for events like Alpine skiing was not compromised for the athletes.

The lengths to ensure that included a mad dash for salt – about 25 tons of it – that had to be quickly imported by plane to Sochi from Zurich late last week to help improve conditions.

Apparently salt is not only good for melting snow on a sidewalk but is also is a key ingredient used to overcome soft snow conditions. Who knew?

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The Olympics are different things for different athletes, and so it was for Vanessa Mae, competing in Sochi as the only athlete from Thailand.

A 35-year-old London-raised pop violinist, Mae realized her dream of competing in the Olympics, finishing dead last in both of the runs in Tuesday's women's giant slalom.

Competing for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakom, using her Thai father's surname, just getting down the hill under difficult weather conditions was deemed a triumph for Mae.

She finished just over 50 seconds slower than gold medalist Tina Maze of Slovenia. After her first run Vanakom beamed: "It was rock and roll at times – I nearly crashed out three times – but I'm happy."

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who became that country's first male skater to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating, had been close to giving up his Olympic dream three years ago.

Hanyu was skating when the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northeast of Japan three years ago and he had to flee from the rink in his skates, with no time even to put on his skate guards.

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"I lost my skating rink because of the earthquake and I was literally struggling to live at that time, let alone to try to keep skating," said the 19-year-old. "I really thought about quitting skating then."

Nobody has come right out and blamed their new-fangled, high-tech skinsuits for the dismal performance of the U.S. speed skating team in Sochi, but the early poor results caused the team to revert to a previous model of outerwear.

The U.S. speedskaters endured one of its worst Olympics in three decades.

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