Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Patience, Canada, patience

Don't expect the host country to score many medals in the first 12 days, officials warn

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CALGARY -- Roger Jackson learned the fine art of patience as an Olympic rowing champion at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.

"If you're sitting in fourth with 500 metres to go, there's no reason to panic," he said Tuesday in a quiet moment at Canada Olympic Park. "If you're smart, you can nip up to the front with a tremendous sprint at the end.

"Patience will hold you in good stead."

In his role as chief executive officer of Own the Podium, Jackson is asking -- and to some degree, begging ---- Canadians to keep that wisdom in mind through the first half of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Based on the schedule, Jackson predicts Germany and the United States will battle it out atop the medal table for the first 12 days in Vancouver.

So Canadians should expect the Americans to trumpet their dominance in winter sport. They best brace themselves for images of the Germans clinking mugs of Bavarian beer in celebration of supremacy in Whistler and the Callaghan Valley.

But there's no reason for the locals to drown their sorrows. No cause for shutting down all Olympic traffic by threatening to jump off the Lion's Gate Bridge.

"As you watch the medal totals day by day, what you need to know is we don't expect Canada to challenge for the lead until the last few days of the Games," Jackson said. "Almost half of our medals will come in the last five days of the 16 days."

The hockey finals are scheduled for the last four days of the Olympics. The same holds true the championship games in curling, and the finals in team pursuit for long-track speedskating.

On Feb. 26, Charles Hamelin of Montreal is the undisputed favourite to win gold in the 500-metre short-track speedskating final. Snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson of Mont-Tremblant, Que., has similar expectations in the parallel giant slalom scheduled for Feb. 27 on snow-challenged Cypress Mountain.

Back in 2008, Canada's 332 summer athletes failed to reach the podium during the first agonizing week of the Beijing Olympics.

Finally on Aug. 15, wrestler Carol Huynh of Calgary made it to the final of the 48-kilogram class, eventually claiming gold.

An Angus Reid poll released that same day showed that 68 per cent of Canadians deemed the medal drought through the first week "unacceptable," with many blaming the government for the lack of glory.

That won't be the case in Vancouver thanks to OTP, the $117-million, five-year plan designed to vault Canada to the top of the overall medal table in 2010.

Based on World Cup results, Jackson has identified 30 athletes or teams as serious medal threats. Another 30 are classified as medal hopefuls with reasonable shots at winning gold, silver or bronze.

So can Canada do it? Is owning the podium a realistic goal?

"One of the excitements of the Games," Jackson said, "is simply that we don't know until the events are played."

-- Canwest News Service

We'll be No. 2, SI predicts


Sports Illustrated is picking Canada to be second-best at this month's Olympics in Vancouver.

In its Feb. 8 edition, which hits newsstands today, the sports magazine projects the Canadian team to finish with 30 medals at the Games -- 10 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze.

Germany is predicted to lead the way with 35 medals, including 11 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze. SI thinks the Americans will finish third with 27 medals; seven gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze.

The Germans topped the medal count at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy with 29 medals.

The Americans were second with 25, followed by the Canadians with 24.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2010 C10

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