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This article was published 13/8/2016 (1463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When the Rio Olympics opened, a trampolinist led the Canadian team into the stadium carrying the Maple Leaf.
When the actual Games began, a rugby team — led by a heavily tattooed, bleach blonde veteran — captured the nation’s imagination, then a bronze.
In the first week, a lanky teenager from Toronto made history; four Olympic medals, the first Canadian gold in swimming in 24 years, the first gold medal won by an Olympic athlete born in this century. All just after turning 16 years old.
And the medals just kept coming.
Friday, that Canadian flag-bearer won a gold medal, too, the country’s second to date in Brazil.
In all, Canada has won an impressive 10 medals less than one week into the Rio Summer Games — more than half the total of 18 won by the nation in the London Olympics in 2012.
There are several shared traits in every story behind those medals: Determination, sacrifice, pain, desire, strength.
But there is only one undeniable common denominator: every single medal been won by female athletes.
Every. Single. One.
"Girls in Canada, meet your new role models," six-time Olympic medallist Clara Hughes tweeted the other day. "You can be all that you dream to be."
The Canadian men? Buptkus. Zero. Strangers to the podium. At least, so far.
It’s worth noting women make up roughly 60 per cent of Canada’s Olympic team, outnumbering their male counterparts 187 to 117, although 42 of those women play team sports compared to 28 for the men.
But that doesn’t explain 10-0.
Maybe it’s just a glitch in the system. Historically, Canadian men and women usually share the medal haul, although during the Winter Games in Turin, Italy in 2006, a quiet, powerful speedskater named Cindy Klassen took home a record five medals, and women in those Games won 16 of 24 medals.
In fact, Winnipeg has long been the birthplace of some of Canada’s more prominent Olympians: Klassen, Hughes, Susan Auch, Jennifer Botterill, Sami Jo Small — just to name a handful of multiple-medal winners.
So when it comes to the Olympics, it’s always been more Womanitoba than Manitoba.
Even in Rio, Winnipeg’s Chantal Van Landegham has already won bronze in the 4x100-metre freestyle relay. Soccer team member Desiree Scott is in the hunt for a second consecutive medal.
But the palpable shift in heft, based on gender, is now being felt far outside Manitoba. It’s become the topic in Brazil impossible to ignore.
"I think it’s great what women are showing Canada," swimmer Kylie Masse told Post Media, after winning bronze in the 100-metre backstroke. "Just knowing that women are equally as strong and powerful as anyone else and just they have the same opportunities as everyone in sport."
Maybe it’s nothing more than an aberration. But at the very least it’s becoming one of the most powerful messages to impressionable little girls — Oleksiak was just 12 during the London Games — across the country who are soaking up images of these new female sports heros.
And, remember, the Olympics is a unique global event. And a nation’s athletes, who wrap themselves in the flag and stand on the podium, are a reflection of how a country is perceived on the world stage.
At this point, the rest of the world must think Canada is a vast, barren land populated by fierce female warriors.
And you know what?
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.
Updated on Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 7:26 AM CDT: Byline added.
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