Canada's leading ladies of sports

TURIN -- We interrupt the dissection of Canadian hockey for this unpaid, non-political announcement: Canadian women are kicking arse at the Winter Olympics.

It is important to know this in the wake of the crushing demise of Canada's favourite millionaires.

It is important to appreciate the magic that has been accomplished at the XX Olympic Games.

Canada has won a record 19 medals at the Winter Games, a record 14 of them coming from women, and contrary to popular belief, not every of them has been won by speed skater Cindy Klassen, although she has won a lot.

Women have won on skates, in the hockey rink, at the oval, on the short track. Women have won on skis, on snowboards, going downhill on something called a skeleton. Women have got up from crashing into fences and recovered from broken ski poles to win Olympics. So much for the alleged fairer sex.

Canada has won five gold medals here: Four of them in women's sports.

Canada has won an impressive eight silver medals: Five of them from women.

Canada has six bronze medals to date: Five from female athletes, one of them yesterday by a curling rink from Calgary.

"I don't think we ever look at things from a male-female perspective, but it's pretty obvious our women have done some amazing things here," said Shane Pearsall, the chef de mission of the Canadian Olympic team.

Being expected to win the way Klassen and Jennifer Heil, the first gold-medal winner, have is one kind of difficulty.

Winning when you come from nowhere, or Canmore, Alta., whichever comes first, the way Chandra Crawford did at cross- country on Wednesday, is the essence of the Olympic dream.

"If I can inspire one kid with what I've accomplished to become an athlete, to love sport, to participate in sport, then I've done something important," said Crawford, 22, who was on no one's radar before winning gold.

"I was in awe of Myriam Bedard when she won her golds in biathlon (in 1994). I was 10 years old. I wanted to be like her."

Maybe some day someone will win an Olympic medal saying they were inspired by Crawford's story.

The men's hockey team, obviously, was expected to win a medal here. It did not.

There was hope that speed skater Jeremy Wotherspoon would win a medal here. He did not.

There was a belief that snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson would be close to the podium. He was not.

Yesterday two male aerials skiers had podium hopes. Neither Kyle Nissen or Warren Shouldice -- eight-time medal winners on the World Cup circuit -- was close.

"I don't think you can look at this as just a man-woman thing," Pearsall said.

"You take someone like Chandra. We were talking about her winning in 2010. She just arrived four years early," he said. "You have to celebrate that."

Some men, like the bobsled team of Pierre Lueders and Lascelles Brown, or the skeleton one-two connection of Duff Gibson and Jeffrey Pain, performed as advertised -- as did figure skater Jeffrey Buttle, who won bronze.

And late this morning, the Brad Gushue rink will play for gold in men's curling: Canada is assured its 20th medal and its sixth by men.

'REAL MENTALITY SHIFT'

But do the math on that and 70% of the Canadian Olympic medals have been won here by women. Four years ago Canada won 17 medals at Salt Lake City. Nine of them were won by women, seven by men, one by the pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

"I think there has been a real mentality shift in Canadian sport and we're seeing that at the Olympics," Pearsall said. "We're of the belief we can compete and we can win. I think that has really shown in the women's programs.

"Beckie Scott showed people you can win at cross-country and look what has followed. Catriona (Le May Doan) showed you can win at speed skating, look what followed," Pearsall said. "I think this is great for our nation, if we can get more women in sport.

"And don't forget, we've had 10 fourth-place finishes. You know how close that is to the podium?

"That tells me we're heading in the right direction with our programs. I get a sense we're feeling strong about ourselves and the women are leading the way."