Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Steady medal pace expected in Sochi

SOCHI, Russia—Canada was a second-half team at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The medal intake at Sochi is forecasted to happen at a more measured pace.

Starting with Saturday’s men’s snowboard slopestyle and women’s moguls, Canada has at least one legitimate medal shot—if not more—virtually every day until the closing ceremonies Feb. 23.
Chef de mission Steve Podborski and his assistants, Jean-Luc Brassard and France St. Louis, intend to be present at events where a Canadian is a front-runner for a medal.
“I would say we’re booked every day,” Podborski said at a Canadian Olympic Committee news conference today.
The host country won 18 of its 26 medals in Vancouver during the back half of the Games.
Ten of the 14 gold medals came in the second half, including four on the final weekend.
Sports making their Olympic debut helped balance the schedule of Canada’s medal prospects in Sochi.
Men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle, the figure skating team event, and the luge relay are among the new events over the first eight days of competition in which Canada has solid medal prospects.
That’s in addition to Canada’s strength in the entrenched sports of alpine skiing, moguls, short-track speedskating, and cross-country skiing.
“Sure there are new sports and we happen to be very, very good in the new ones because we are a great sporting nation,” Podborski noted.
“[But] with the support we’re getting now from corporate Canada, ‘Own The Podium,’ and the Government of Canada, we have an opportunity to be good in the traditional sports, as well, and that’s where we’ll make our great gains in the areas where are athletes are getting better . . . cross-country, alpine skiing.”
Canada’s athletes have been waging fierce foosball tournaments in their village lounge while they await tomorrow’s opening ceremonies, according to Podborski.
But Olympic competition started early for some Canadians with today’s preliminary rounds.
Sebastien Toutant of L’Assomption, Que. and Max Parrot of Bromont, Que. advanced to the men’s snowboard slopestyle final Saturday.
Charles Reid of Mont-Tremblant, Que. and Regina’s Mark McMorris will try to join them via the semi-final earlier in the day.
The Dufour-Lapointe sisters from Montreal—Justine, Chloe, and Maxime—all qualified for Saturday’s women’s moguls finals, as did Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City.
Reigning world champion Spencer O’Brien of Courtney, B.C. qualified for the women’s slopestyle final Sunday.
No competition is scheduled tomorrow because of the opening ceremonies.
In addition to slopestyle and women’s moguls on opening weekend, skiers Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., Calgary’s Jan Hudec, and Manny Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C. are medal prospects in Sunday’s downhill.
Canada’s figure skaters are favoured to win a medal in the new team event Sunday.
Canada’s objective in 2010 was to top the overall medal count and the target remains the same in Sochi.
The host team was third in total medals, but won the gold-medal race four years ago.
Because of the new sports, there are 36 more medals to be won in 2014 than in 2010.
That will help fill Canada’s coffers, but also those of top rivals Germany, Norway, the United States, and host Russia.
“Canada is here to compete and win,” COC president Marcel Aubut said.
“Our aim is to contend for the number-one spot in medals won.
“This is an ambitious goal but we Canadians like it this way,” he added.
“Our athletes expect nothing less of themselves but the highest achievements.”

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