Canada may not 'Own the Podium'

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — The Canadian Olympic team will likely not ‘own the podium’ at these Olympic Games.

Perhaps they can rent a part of it from the Americans and Germans.

Chris Rudge, the CEO of the COC, said Thursday that it was his organization’s “goal” to finish first in Vancouver, but that nothing was etched in stone.

“Nobody ever said we ARE going to be No.1,” said Rudge. “We put that out as a goal and objective. Is the sky going to fall if we don’t? I don’t think so.”

Own the Podium was a $110-million initiative geared towards making Canada a superpower in winter sports in time for these Games. But Rudge reiterated yesterday that finishing No.1 was just a goal, and no one at the IOC is going to commit hara-kiri if it doesn’t come to fruition.

The good news is, the Canadian team — which has seven medals after seven days and is ranked fourth in total medals — is ahead of the medal pace from four years ago in Turin, when they were ranked eighth at this point.

The bad news: The Americans and Germans are having a exceedingly good Games, and it appears that finishing No. 1 is not going to happen for Canada.

But Rudge is counting out nothing.

“In Beijing (2008 Summer Games), we went eight days without winning a medal and the hand-wringers were all over the place,” he said. “We’re on track. The competition’s not over. And there are ample opportunities for the Canadian team.”

Caroline Assalian, the COC executive director of Olympic preparations and Games, said she expects the red and white to finish with a major flourish as the Games wind down with events that Canada is traditionally strong in, such as short-track speed skating, skeleton, ski cross, curling, and hockey.

“We have always said, we’ve always known, of all the countries, we have the best chance towards the end of the Games,” she said. “The last four days of these Games will be spectacular for the Canadian Olympic team. Really, in the last couple of days of competition, we will look to pull ahead of the competition.”

Rudge was asked by a German journalist if this was the first time in his memory that Canadians were this aggressive and hungry for success at an Olympics.

“That’s probably fair that we’re historically, at least publicly, a more self-effacing nation,” he said. “I don’t think our athletes ever felt that way, they always wanted to be the best. But I think as a country, we’re probably talking about it a little bit more than we have. But I don’t think that in doing that you sacrifice the kind of niceness that we always thought we had. To some degree maybe Canadians thought we had a bit of a monopoly on virtue, and I’m not sure if that’s true. We’re just like everybody else in this world.”

Rudge also shot down a suggestion the Americans are doing better than Canada, thus far, because they are mentally tougher.

“I don’t think the Americans are doing anything than our athletes are,” he said.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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