Next stop, Rio
Pan Ams over, Canada’s athletes turn attention to 2016 Olympic Summer Games
Feeling a summer-sport void now that the Pan American Games are over? It won’t last long — the opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics are just over 13 months away.
Canada’s objective in Rio de Janeiro is a top-12 finish in total medals among the 200-plus participating countries.
For that to happen, Canada’s divers, swimmers, rowers, wrestlers and paddlers need to come through, augmented by some track and field, cycling and trampoline medals.
Those sports are the most heavily funded in Canada based on Olympic medal potential. Many are sports in which athletes can win multiple medals at one Olympic Games.
“They’re the bread and butter,” Own The Podium chief executive officer Anne Merklinger said. “If we don’t perform well in those sports in terms of multimedal potential, then we’re going to struggle to meet our targets.”
Canada’s eventual goal at the Summer Games is to finish in the top eight, but it will take a strong performance to crack the top dozen in Rio.
Canada finished 14th in total medals with 18 in Beijing in 2008, although shot putter Dylan Armstrong was eventually awarded a bronze years later after one of the original medallists tested positive for drugs, increasing the total to 19. The country won 18 medals in London to finish 13th overall, but earned fewer gold and silver medals.
Merklinger said winning more than 18 medals is an objective for Rio. Canadian Olympic Committee chief sport officer Caroline Assalian said the COC’s focus is the top-12 result.
“The reality is all sports have to come through because one or two medals made the difference between 13th and finishing 11th,” Assalian said. “Every single medal counts.”
Own The Podium doles out funding to Canada’s sport federations based on Olympic medal potential. Canada’s taxpayers are the biggest contributor via Sport Canada, although the COC contributes money to its coffers from its corporate sponsorship campaigns.
OTP doles out about $35 million annually for summer sport.
The 2015 world championships are the best performance-on-demand indicator of which athletes are tracking towards a medal in Rio. The majority of world championships are still upcoming, with the world aquatic championships just underway in Kazan, Russia.
Of the athletes who were topfive in their respective world championships in 2011, 60 per cent produced an Olympic medal a year later in London. The conversion rate in Beijing was 67 per cent.
“Our best conversion rate was 67 per cent,” Assalian said. “That is absolutely our goal as well.”
Canada’s performance at the Pan American Games in Toronto also rated as a measuring stick for Rio for OTP and the COC. Canadians won a Pan Am record 217 medals, including 78 gold.
“Winning a medal in any Games is an important point in an athlete’s career,” Merklinger said. “Winning one at home in this kind of environment that people have referred to as a mini-Olympics is even more important.
“There’s been performances here where athletes have exceeded expectations because they’re performing on demand, they handled the environment so well.”
The federal government provided an extra $3 million to OTP for the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games to assist athletes with medal potential across all the sports — not just Olympic and Paralympic sports.
“Winning a medal in any Games is an important point in an athlete’s career. Winning one at home in this kind of environment that people have referred to as a mini-Olympics is even more important.” Own The Podium executive director Anne Merklinger
Canadian athletes dance during the closing ceremony for the 2015 Pan Am Games Sunday in Toronto.