And So What About Canada in Torino?

When the Canadian Olympic Committee set a medals target of 25 I wasn't sure if that was attainable for a couple of reasons. The first is that Canada never got more than 17 medals in their history. The second was because of Canada's uncanny ability to find a way to lose.

Ever since Canada's pathetic showing in Calgary in 1988 - where the country failed to get a gold medal - Canadians began to demand a little more from our athletes. At the time, that was unfair since the government (or the public for that matter) did little to help out athletes.

It was during the 1990s did Canada begin to emerge as a serious winter athletic nation. The Albertville games in 1992 were a sign of things to come. As we improved people began to see that winning wasn't all that bad. Suddenly it was no longer acceptable to just participate.

In Torino, Canada finished third overall by virtue of winning 24 medals - its best showing ever. Germany led the way with 29 followed by the United States with 25. They even finished ahead of traditional powers Norway and Austria. It was an impressive performance. Especially considering that we led all nations with an incredible 18 4th place finishes. Imagine if Canada converted half of those misses? It would top the table of nations. We've come a long way since 1984 when we didn't even have long track speed skating facilities.

All things considered, it was an interesting performance. Depending how you see things, it can be argued we succeeded in spite of ourselves. There were too many 'what might have been' story lines. To others, this is just nit picking as it was an amazing performance for a perennial mediocre performer like Canada.

Nonetheless, things are a-changing in Canada. The COC should not sit back and pop the Asti Spumante just yet. They need to figure out how to avoid that many 4th place finishes if they want to achieve the lofty goal of 35 medals in Vancouver in 2010.

For the first time, Canadian sports rhetoric is competitive. It was unheard of 10 years ago to set such ambitious goals. However, before we get carried away in Lombardesque chants, they must also guard against developing the prototypical arrogant athlete that only considers gold as being worthy. This would be unhealthy.

In any event, Canada is the talk of a nation. Maybe we can now do away with the notion that it was not about the medals all these years. Indeed, that may have been a way too secretly comfort our collective disappointments. People have been taking an active interest in the medal count - and they are liking it. Radio sports talk hosts, reporters and commentators have all had a different tone in their voice. No more is that sarcastic hint of inferiority complex. Canada is now among the great nations and this makes people feel good.

Quick word on hockey. The games were absolutely boring to watch. After Salt Lake City, everyone was talking about how the NHL was a bad product (which it was) and that it needed to be more 'international' in its orientation. While the NHL could have learned a couple of things best to remember that the Olympics are a short, high impact tournament with nationalist emotions flying high.


  1. Finland vs. Sweden tomorrow will be an interesting and hopefully skill-filled game.

    Who do you expect will win?

    I personally am torn. The Ottawa Senators' and Toronto Maple Leafs captains both play for Sweden. They're an exceptional scoring team, and make the most incredible plays.

    The Finns though, haven't lost a game yet. Like you say, they have this utterly awesome chemistry this year, and seem unstoppable. But they're still human, and may be feeling the pressure to perform this game.

    My head says the Finns and my heart says the Swedes will pull the win.

  2. Tough to say. I'm leaning towards the Finns. I'm not sure how strong Sweden is. They weren't that good against Russia earlier and the Czechs started Hlinka for some strange reason. That may have distorted the 7-3 scoreline somewhat. It's all about momentum and the Finns have it.

  3. There you go. Sweden wins gold. Their talent prevailed in a 3-2 victory. It goes to show that anything can happen in a one game playoff setting. This must be a tough one for the Finns to swallow. It's back to work for everyone.

  4. I'm surprised there aren't more replies to this post. I'm willing to bet that a majority felt no connection to Olympic hockey after the USA and Canada were eliminated.

    Eh well, a lot to be said for the Swedish work ethic. And it's not just at Ikea any more.

    Congrats to the Swedes for a well-played series of games. Very impressive.

    Side note though -- we want our medal back in Vancouver.


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