SLAM!Sports
February 27, 2006
Canucks sitting pretty for 2010
Golden quartet eyes Vancouver
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

TURIN -- The best is yet to come for Canada's Winter Olympians.

While Canadians didn't "Own The Podium" in Turin, they certainly shared it a whole lot. A record-breaking medal haul of 24 and a third-place finish overall is quite likely the tip of the iceberg for Canadians playing host to the Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010.

"I'm only 26 right now," said Cindy Klassen, who now owns six Olympic medals, five from these Games. "Hopefully in Vancouver, I'll be that much stronger.

"It's really special just to get to the Olympics. But to get to race in your own country in front of your own fans, that's unbelievable."

Originally, Turin was set up as a dress rehearsal for Vancouver, but the way so many Canadian athletes, and in particular the female athletes, performed here the anticipation for Vancouver is already enormous.

Of the five individual Canadian gold medal winners here, four -- Klassen, Clara Hughes, Jennifer Heil and Chandra Crawford -- have confirmed they intend to compete in Vancouver. The other two, in the team sports of curling and hockey, are bound to be strong.

Of the silver medal winners, even veteran bobsled driver Pierre Lueders says he is returning for Vancouver as are the majority of those decorated.

Almost as encouraging in Turin, however, were the 13 fourth-place finishes by Canadian athletes and the eight fifth-place finishes.

"We had 132 rookies here," said Alex Gardiner of the Canadian Olympic Committee. "We expect a lot of them to be back for Vancouver."

When asked about all the fourth place finishes, Gardiner joked: "We're a fourth to be reckoned with."

But it was no joke for the young alpine ski team, which had three remarkable fourth-place finishes. Erik Guay, Kelly Vanderbeek and Francois Bourque -- all 24 years old or younger -- missed the podium by less than a second combined. Other impressive young skiers who will challenge in Vancouver include Brigitte Acton, 22; Manuel Osborne-Paradis, 22; Genevieve Simard, 25.

Klassen, for one, vividly understands how to translate one Olympics into another. She won a bronze in Salt Lake City and finished fourth in two other events.

"Finishing fourth, you're almost there, you've almost got a medal," Klassen said. "I think going into the next Games, it gives you confidence. Coming fourth feels terrible at the time, because you're on the verge of a medal. But you also know you're so close that you can do it."

Many of the other medal winners are set to return as well: Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, who won two medals in short track speed skating, is only 21 as is Charles Hamelin, a rising star in that strange sport.

From freestyle skiing, 18-year-old Alexander Bilodeau was one slip away from gold while moguls skier Marc Andre Moreau, at 24, was barely fourth.

While more medals were won here, there has been little progression in terms of golds, though. Canada won six in Nagano in 1998, seven in Salt Lake in 2002 and the same number here.

"I don't know if we have an answer for that," said Chris Rudge, the head of the COC. "Our focus has been on winning medals. Maybe we need to start focussing on winning gold medals."


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