Canada eyeing Olympic gold record

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — There’s gold in the hills. There’s gold on the ice. There’s gold just about everywhere for the Canadian team at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Golden performances on Saturday by the men’s speed-skating pursuit team, snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson and the Kevin Martin rink in curling bring Canada’s gold-medal total to 13 — a record Winter Games haul for this nation that also ties the event’s all-time mark, set by the Soviet Union at the 1976 Innsbruck games and matched by Norway in 2002.

That, of course, means a win Sunday by the Canadian men’s hockey team over the Americans would give Canada the all-time Winter Games gold-medal record.

That possibility has Canadian athletes and officials feeling pretty good about themselves, especially considering Canada got off to a relatively slow start in Vancouver and the Own the Podium program was widely mocked.

“I always believed in the program,” COC boss Chris Rudge told QMI Agency on Saturday. “There were a lot of skeptics but I never wavered in my belief that we would get there.”

As of Saturday night, Canada already had 25 medals, breaking our medal-haul record by one and shattering our record for gold by six — both marks set at the 2006 Turin Games.

The Americans had 36 total medals as of Saturday, but only nine gold, while Germany had 29 medals and 10 gold. The official IOC medal table, which calculates medals based on colour, has Canada officially in the lead in the medal standings.

Rudge said the Canadian team’s performance in Vancouver transcends sport.

“It shows the nation how good we can be,” he said. “And the wonderful thing is, we’ve won with grace and we’re showing the world that good people can do good things.

“It’s a good message to all Canadians. We live in a competitive world and this shows we can compete with anyone, and maintain our values.”

Rudge hopes that the team’s success in Vancouver will inspire Canadians to press all levels of government, particularly Ottawa, to maintain, even increase, the level of funding given to amateur athletes.

The chance to break the Winter Games gold record is another motivator for the men’s hockey team, says Steve Yzerman, its executive director.

“I’m sure our players would take great pride in contributing to a very successful Olympic Games for the entire Canadian Olympic team,” Yzerman said. “Canadian athletes have performed so well here in Vancouver and our hockey team is honoured to be here and a part of it.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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