Canada could win gold race

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — What if at the Olympics, they kept score like most of the sporting world does?

What if it was even more about winning, and less about silver and bronze?

If that were the way, how would Canadians be viewing the medal chase about now?

COC officials have already dis-owned the podium, admitting the obvious, that the medal-count race cannot and will not be won. Now attention has turned to the gold-medal race, the best way for Canadian officials to save face.

But do they not have a point? Could Canada still “win” the Games?

If gold is your gauge, the home team is right in the thick of things as we gallop down the home stretch of Vancouver 2010.

In fact, it would take some serious stumbling not to make this the most successful Winter Olympics for Canada in terms of victories. The previous best gold total was seven, a number reached both in Torino four years ago and in Salt Lake City the Games prior to that.

Better yet, if you feel a need to rationalize, Canada has a shot to “win” more events at these Games than any other country.

As Wednesday dawned, Canada had six gold, second only to the United States and Germany, who were knotted at seven apiece.

In the overall medal count we may be getting thrashed, but here’s where things get interesting. With both men’s and women’s curling and hockey remaining, plus women’s bobsled late Wednesday and some other speedskating possibilities pending, Canada could still win more gold than any other nation.

And if the total hits double digits, is it not impossible to declare these Games a success, given that before the fun got started there was so much talk about the fact Canada had never won Olympic gold at home?

While it’s true that the more the IOC adds events, the more Canadians tend to be contenders, the gold count has been close to any realistic target set prior to the Games.

The most common Canadian-bashing here has hammered near misses, the fourths and fifths our athletes seem to collect a little too easily at times.

Call it rationalization, but some of those were as impressive as any less medal for the mindset that delivered them. In women’s skeleton, for one, Mellisa Hollingsworth was sitting second heading into her final of four runs and didn’t like the smell of silver.

Going for gold forced a mistake that ultimately bumped her to fifth. Did she choke or did she go for broke? And which is worse?

Chris Del Bosco did the same in ski cross when he essentially said “screw” bronze and had to settle for fourth when he crashed trying to make it happen.

If there was anything admirable about Canada’s sorry performance in alpine skiing, it was Manuel Osborne-Paradis’ attitude. Sure he crashed out in one of his races and finished well back in another, he made it clear he wasn’t treating like a World Cup race. It was gold or nothing, forget second or third best.

Teammate Erig Guay had a couple of close-but-no-cigar fourth-place finishes, but wasn’t a threat to win in either. Which would you take?

In other events, such as the cross-country relay fourth place for Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw, the result was an overachievement not a disappointment. And in some, like Clara Hughes’ stirring effort in the women’s 5,000-metre speedskating event Wednesday afternoon, bronze feels like a win.

There’s nothing wrong with silver and bronze and in many cases, they represent a major achievement. But the Olympics are still about competition and the top of the scoreboard has to matter most.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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