Peter Armstrong - Sunday Jan. 5, 2014 21:28 ET

Steve Podborski: 'We'll do better than Vancouver'

Canada's chef de mission believes record medal haul possible in Sochi

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Steve Podborski, Canada's chef de mission, believes Canada can win more medals in Sochi than it did in Vancouver. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

In the final days and weeks before the Olympics, Canadian athletes are starting to deal with the reality of high expectations.

As the games approach, the experts are trying to piece together the last year of competition, compiling years of data to account for the intangibles and predict the outcome.

It's both incredibly unscientific and incredibly pervasive. Everyone is trying to determine how their countries will perform.

Canada is hoping to build on the unprecedented success of Vancouver: 14 gold medals, 26 medals overall.

The predictions run from the wildly optimistic (49 potential shots at a medal) to darkly pessimistic (11 medals).

Certaintly, expectations are enormously high.

Steve Podborski, Canada's chef de mission, raced at a time when Canada was content to compete. He won half of all Canada's medals in Lake Placid in 1980.

"We won two medals," said Podborski. "And we've won more medals in every games since then. Why? Because Canada is less and less happy with being like that was. We forget, we think we've always been quite good and now we're just hitting our stride. No, we've actually built and built and worked hard."

So, before the Vancouver games, Canadians had great hope for medal performances. Now, leading up to the Sochi games, Podborski says success has replaced hope with expectation.

"And I think we're going to win a lot of medals in Sochi as well. I think we'll win more medals than we did in Vancouver."

That is a bold prediction. The vagaries of sport are wild. Anything can happen. Someone can crash, a dark horse can come from nowhere.

"I think it's great to see Canadians have the medal expectations," said Jeff Bean, three-time Olympian in freestyle aerials, now an analyst for CBC Sports. 

"In the past, we've always wanted to be this demure nation. Now this is what we want. This is what we should get. We're looking at World Cup results, we should get these medals."

At the end of the day, it's up to the athletes and how they handle the moment. That much has never changed.

The only difference heading into Sochi is that the gap between Canada's aspirations and realistic expectations has been reduced to zero.

If Vancouver was this country's launch party, Sochi is a chance to prove Canada belongs at the top.

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