'Cocky Canucks' set to storm Olympic podium in Sochi

Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut poses for a quick photo during the opening of...

Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut poses for a quick photo during the opening of Canada House at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games,in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 6, 2014. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:47 AM ET

SOCHI - Canadian swagger.

Those aren't two words you often seen together for a nation of people described by American colleagues here Thursday as “apologetic,” “friendly,” “blue collar,” and “innocuous, in a good way.”

But after Canada’s success at the Vancouver Olympics where the country won a record 14 gold medals, what once was a Canadian shuffle on the world stage is now a strut.

“Canada is here to compete and win. Our aim is to contend for the number one spot in the world in medals won,” said Marcel Aubut, the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “It’s an ambitious goal. We Canadians like it this way. This is how Canadians are built. Canadians are looking for the highest, the best, it is what they want us to be.

“We are not her to participate, we are here to win. Canada is ready.”

A Reuters story called us “cocky Canucks,” who “are trading in their world-famous politeness for some cocksure trash talking,” a reference to the goal of topping the medal chart and to Canadian snowboarders chirping American competitor Shaun White for pulling out of the slopestyle competition over safety concerns.

The change in Canadian mindset started in the lead-up to the Vancouver Olympics with the ambitious Own the Podium program, which some took as quite brash for a people that had been known for saying “sorry” even when it’s not our fault.

Steve Podborski, Canada’s chef de mission, said shooting for the top of the medal chart is the only goal worthy of the time and commitment from athletes, coaches and volunteers.

“We will not stand in front of them and say, ‘we’re trying to be pretty good.’ Or we’d like to be ‘in there.’ We will strive to be number one,” he said.

“We expect great in Canada. It’s a transformation. I think it’s an ideal approach. We may not win the medal count this time. We might not win it the next time. But one day we will because we are striving to be number one in the world in the medal count.”

Canada finished third in the medals in Vancouver with 26. The USA was tops with 37 and Germany was second with 30. This time around, Sports Illustrated is predicting 35 medals for Norway, 33 for the U.S. and 31 for Canada.

“We’re ready to compete,” said Jennifer Jones, the skip of the women’s curling team. “We’re ready to deliver.”

Her coach agreed.

“Legends will be born in the next few weeks and we’re going to watch it happen,” said Elaine Dagg-Jackson.

Typically, a country will pour all kinds of money into buying some medals when it is going to host the Games. Canadian sport federations and the Vancouver Games organizing committee started Own the Podium in 2005 to help fund athletes’ preparations for 2010.

After the Games, funding typically dries up, but not this time.

Own The Podium pumped in an additional $14 million over the four years since Vancouver bringing the total to $89 million.

“(The Vancouver success) really has changed the culture of high performance sport in our country,” said Anne Merklinger, Own The Podium’s CEO. “Our role as an organization is to make sure that every podium-potential athlete is prepared optimally. Podium-potential athletes coming into Sochi are as prepared as they can be.

“We feel very confident in that level of preparation that’s been afforded those top athletes. They are more confident as a result of the tremendous success in Vancouver and they’re carrying that kind of confidence and swagger, a belief that Canadian athletes will win, want to win and can win.”

Podborski’s confidence in his team’s abilities is reflected in the schedule he and assistants Jean-Luc Brassard and France St. Louis put together.

“We have spent quite bit of time working with our chefs to get to every event we might win a medal in and I’d say we’re booked every day,” he said. “It’s going to be a fantastic Games.”

Is that cocky?

Listening to the COC folks Thursday, we aren’t making any apologies.

MEDAL ODDS

Canada won a Winter Games record 14 gold medals four years ago in Vancouver and finished third on the medal chart with 26. The USA was tops with 37 and Germany was second with 30.

The Canadian Olympic Committee’s goal this time around is to win the most medals.

Sports Illustrated is predicting 35 medals for Norway, 33 for the U.S. and 31 for Canada.

Here, according to Bodog.ca, are some odds on how the competition for medals will turn out.

2014 Winter Olympics (Sochi, Russia) - Most Gold Medals

Norway, 6/5

USA, 5/2

Germany, 7/1

Russia, 9/1

Canada, 9/1

Austria, 40/1

South Korea, 40/1

China, 40/1

France, 50/1

Sweden, 50/1

Switzerland, 50/1

Netherlands, 100/1

2014 Winter Olympics (Sochi, Russia) - Most Overall Medals

USA, 1/1

Norway, 9/5

Germany, 5/1

Russia, 13/2

Canada, 16/1

Austria, 80/1

South Korea, 80/1

China, 80/1

France, 100/1

Sweden, 100/1

Switzerland, 150/1

Netherlands, 150/1


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