COC prepared for Canada's first home gold

“No Canadian kid grows up dreaming of finishing 12th"

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency


Olympic Team Chef de Mission Nathalie Lambert speaks to the press Thursday February 11. (PRESS/Rick Eglinton)

VANCOUVER — He won’t predict a Canadian medal total.

He can’t pinpoint how much neckwear it’ll take to achieve the home country’s goal of owning the podium atop the medal table.

But Canadian Olympic Committee boss Michael Chambers knows this: he will preside over this country’s first gold medal on home soil after strikeouts in Montreal in 1976 and Calgary in ’88.

He just doesn’t know if he’ll see it live.

It could happen on the Whistler slopes. It could be on the short track at Pacific Coliseum or Cypress Mountain.

It just better happen quick — or the pressure on the home team will roll in like fog at Whistler.

“I think there are 34 million Canadians who’d like to be there at that moment, too,” Chambers said. “I don’t know where it’ll happen and I’d love to be there, but I’d tell all the athletes — don’t wait for me to get there.”

Just get it done.

There’s been $110 million, much of it Canadian taxpayer-based, sunk into Own The Podium to rule these Vancouver Olympics.

But the ultimate success here is not being measured in a specific number of medals — just in having the most.

“If you don’t reach for something, you won’t grasp anything,” Chambers said. “We set finishing on top as our goal. We know there are good teams like the Germans and the U.S. but we don’t know what the number will be. It changes. In Salt Lake (in 2002), it took 34 to win. In Turin, it was 29.

“Every Winter Olympics, more countries try to grab for medals. The number could go down again. That’s why you don’t put a number on it.”

COC chief executive officer Chris Rudge helped shape this revamped Canadian approach: we’re going to beat you, but still do in a nice-guy way that’s respectful and by the rules.

“No Canadian kid grows up dreaming of finishing 12th and listening to the German national anthem,” he said. “The athletes have always wanted to win.

“This is a self-confident attitude that we’ve always seen from the Americans and it’s kind of nice to see, for once, the elephant wondering what the hell’s going on with the mouse.”

To sustain Own The Podium past Vancouver, the COC will need creativity to keep cheese in the mousetraps.

They have a big weapon — president-elect and former Quebec Nordiques boss Marcel Aubut.

“The worst part is staying on top,” he said. “But that’s the goal. I want to see the provinces get more involved. In Quebec, there is a great support (for amateur athletics). We need to see it across the country.

“It’s necessary it happens to win in Sochi (in 2014).”

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