Canada send­ing ‘strong­est team ever’

Win­ter Olympics run Feb. 9-25 in South Korea

Journal Pioneer - - SPORTS - BY DONNA SPENCER

Canada’s am­bi­tion “to con­tend for No. 1” at the Pyeongchang Olympics is a shift from the two pre­vi­ous Win­ter Games, where the pub­licly stated goal by the coun­try’s top sport of­fi­cials was to fin­ish first in the race for the most medals.

“As an ath­lete, I never re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated peo­ple who weren’t re­ally part of my team telling me how many medals I was go­ing to win,” said Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Tri­cia Smith, a sil­ver medal­list in row­ing in 1984. “Con­tend­ing for No. 1 is what we do as ath­letes. It makes sense for us as an or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Head­ing into Pyeongchang with a broader tar­get that is eas­ier to hit, Canada’s team head­ing to South Korea cer­tainly has the depth of tal­ent and ex­pe­ri­ence to both bat­tle for the top of the medal ta­ble and win more Win­ter Games medals than ever be­fore. “We head into the games prob­a­bly with our strong­est team ever,” Own The Podium chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Anne Merklinger said. Ger­many is on a mis­sion, how­ever, with its ath­letes gob­bling up world cham­pi­onship and World Cup medals. Canada is track­ing to duke it out with the U.S. and Nor­way for sec­ond in the over­all count. With 26 medals from the most re­cent world cham­pi­onships in each win­ter sport, Canada ranks sec­ond be­hind Ger­many (34) and is one up on the Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to Own The Podium.

Af­ter run­ning a dis­tant sec­ond be­hind Ger­many in medals won for much of this World Cup sea­son, Canada is tied for third with the U.S. at 116 be­hind Ger­many (188) and Nor­way (127) head­ing into the Feb. 9-25 Olympics. Canada col­lected a high of 26 medals in the 2010 Win­ter Games in Van­cou­ver to fin­ish third, but the host coun­try won more gold than any other coun­try with 14.

Host Rus­sia’s tum­ble from top spot in 2014 for dop­ing vi­o­la­tions com­bined with Canada due for an up­grade to a bronze in the luge re­lay would give Canada 10 gold, 10 sil­ver and six bronze in Sochi – tied for sec­ond with Nor­way be­hind the U.S. (28).

Af­ter Sochi, the ad­vent of an­a­lyt­ics, an in­crease in fund­ing for young “Nex­tGen” ath­letes, an im­proved ca­pac­ity to pre­vent and treat in­juries and the re­ten­tion of qual­ity coaches has po­si­tioned Canada for a strong 2018, ac­cord­ing to Merklinger.

It was dif­fi­cult to draw a straight line be­tween the sus­pen­sion of some Rus­sian ath­letes from the 2016 Sum­mer Games in Rio to Canada’s 22 medals there.

But if the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee’s ban on 40-odd Rus­sians from Pyeongchang sur­vives ap­peals, their ab­sence would in­crease Canada’s medal chances in slid­ing sports, speed­skat­ing, men’s cross-coun­try ski­ing and women’s skele­ton.

“We’re strong re­gard­less of whether the Rus­sians are there or not,” Merklinger said. Rus­sian ath­letes deemed clean will be al­lowed to com­pete un­der the clunky moniker “Olympic Ath­letes from Rus­sia” or OAR.

They’ll wear neu­tral, not Rus­sian, colours. Gold medallists will hear the Olympic an­them and not that of their coun­try. Rus­sia cur­rently ranks fifth in World Cup medals this win­ter at 95.

“If they’re not field­ing their quote-unquote best team be­cause they’re in­volved in dop­ing scan­dals, I don’t feel that bad for them,” said four-time Olympic cross-coun­try skier Devon Ker­shaw from Sud­bury, Ont.

Canada’s speed­skaters, freestyle skiers, snow­board­ers, fig­ure skaters and resur­gent slid­ing teams are ex­pected to lead the medal charge in Pyeongchang.

Moguls skier Mikael Kings­bury, bob­sled pi­lot Kail­lie Humphries, the ice dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, snow­boarder Max Par­rot, short-tracker Charles Hamelin, the women’s hockey team and the curl­ing teams skipped by Kevin Koe and Rachel Ho­man are among the gold-medal favourites.

No NHL play­ers in the men’s hockey tour­na­ment is a throw­back to 1994 when Canada lost the gold in a shootout to Swe­den. Ev­ery coun­try scoured other pro leagues to pull to­gether com­pet­i­tive teams.


Cana­dian Kail­lie Humphries is seek­ing her third straight Olympic gold medal in bob­sleigh in South Korea.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.