Is Canada's Sochi medal haul falling short of expectations?
Country has few days left to equal Vancouver's medal total
With the Sochi Olympics closing in on its conclusion, the performance of Canada at these Games is coming into sharper focus. It's a hot button issue for some, but it's important to assess how the country’s done in Sochi.
So here’s the question: has Canada performed up to expectations in medal wins?
The answer? No, it hasn't.
Of course, many people have differing perspectives on what constitutes success in the context of an Olympics. Some might argue that Canada has still had a pretty solid Games, with seven medals in freestyle skiing and snowboarding, a few surprises in speed skating, and a few near-misses in luge and bobsleigh.
Yet if we are to judge Canada's performance strictly by medal count — more importantly, gold medals — the answer is pretty clear: Sochi is no repeat of Vancouver for Canada, which won a record 14 gold and 26 overall medals.
Going into Sochi, a variety of media outlets made predictions that Canada would become the first nation in Winter Olympics history to actually improve on medal totals after being the host nation at the previous Winter Olympics.
The Associated Press picked Canada to win 31 medals, 13 of them gold, while Sports Illustrated made a similar prediction with 31 medals for Canada, 12 of them gold.
Yet at this point in the Games with just five days remaining, Canada's chances of reaching that medal total are slim.
In fact, it is possible that Canada may — for the first time since the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics — actually regress in medal totals.
The consequences of a medal decline are unknown at this point, but there's little doubt that hard questions may need to be asked — specifically by the organizational bodies that fund the Own The Podium program — about Canada's performance in Sochi.
It's also important to point out that finishing off the podium doesn't mean an athlete's performance has been a failure — far from it. Canadians have demonstrated success just by reaching the top 10 in a number of sports and shown great potential for the future in others.
Canada's athletes have done a terrific job in Sochi overall, and it's a testament to a growing belief in their ability to compete on a global scale that our Olympic medal hopes have surged ahead.
Further, there has also been many instances of just plain bad luck: Canada's Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais's numerous crashes in short track definitely come to mind.
However, Canada's performance in Sochi can't be brushed off by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) just as a string of bad luck and weather-related mishaps. The belief that the COC overpromised and underdelivered on Canada's medal expectations in Sochi gains credibility when you place it alongside Canada's performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics — an Olympics that also came loaded with very high expectations and a less-than-expected result.
Did we expect too much of our Vancouver medallists to do it again, away from home-field advantage?
Medal hopes still ahead
With just five days left at the Sochi Olympics, there's still hope for Canada to equal or maybe — just maybe — exceed the country's total in Vancouver. At this point, while 31 medals are unlikely, a total of 24 to 28 is a plausible goal for Canada.
There's no shortage of contenders for medals in the Games' final days, either.
Kaillie Humphries of Calgary and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., captured gold women's bobsled on Wednesday, while Canada’s men's four-man bobsled teams have a good shot at the podium.
Chris Del Bosco is a solid contender for a medal in men's ski cross, while there's definite medal possibilities in women’s ski cross in Canadian competitors Georgia Simmerling, Kelsey Serwa and Marielle Thompson.
Short track speed skating still has the women's 1,000 metres and the men's 500 metres, with Valérie Maltais and Marie-Ève Drolet as medal contenders for the women, and Charlie Cournoyer and Olivier Jean for the men.
The Canadian men have a strong shot at a medal in the men's team pursuit in long track speed skating, with Denny Morrison, Lucas Makowsky and Vincent De Haître anchoring the team.
Both the men's and women's curling teams, led by Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones respectively, are solid contenders for gold medals. And let's not forget the obvious: the men's and women's hockey teams.
Yet at the same time, when the flame goes out on the Sochi Olympics on Sunday, it may be prudent for people interested in the future of amateur sport in Canada to ask hard questions about what our national priorities are going forward for PyeongChang 2018.