Vancouver. They may not own the podium, but no one’s knocking them off the top step.
Thanks to a surge of victories down the Olympic homestretch, including three on Saturday, Canada is assured of winning the most gold medals at the Vancouver Games.
A quick succession of triumphs by the men’s pursuit speedskating team, slalom snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson and the men’s curling team gave Canada 13 golds. If the Canadians win their men’s hockey showdown with the United States, they will go home with more winter gold than any nation ever.
Not bad for a country that just a week ago was waving the white flag in the medals race.
Sure, the US, guaranteed no worse than a silver in men’s hockey, will win the overall hardware count with at least 37. Canada, though, has put on a show in the second half of its Olympics.
It already has broken the host-nation mark of 10 golds shared by the United States in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Norway in Lillehammer in 1994.
It is also the most gold medals Canada has won at any Olympics, winter or summer. Its previous high was 10 at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by the Soviet Union and its allies.
“We have 13, fantastic,” curling team captain Kevin Martin said. “We need to have more Olympic Games in our country, don’t we?”
The surge over the past four days was a remarkable turnaround. Canada won no golds at all in the two previous Olympics it hosted — the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
It has been a huge relief for Canadian Olympic officials, who entered these games predicting their five-year, $117 million Own the Podium program would enable it to win the most medals.
“We thought we had the right plan. We knew these last four or five days were going to be in our wheelhouse,” said Chris Rudge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “But I don’t think in our wildest dreams we thought we’d get this many golds.”
The very concept of Own the Podium sparked vigorous debate across the country, with some Canadians suggesting it smacked of arrogance and others hailing it as a sign of self-confidence and national pride.
“What it has done is caused Canada to look within itself in a unique way, beyond just sport — a debate about who we are and what we value,” Rudge said. “If we continue this kind of debate, it makes us a richer, stronger and healthier country.”
Fittingly, the pursuit speedskating team — which won the record-breaking 11th gold medal — was emblematic of how these Olympics have brought together a nation challenged by linguistic and geographic divisions.
Its members were Denny Morrison from the Pacific coast province of British Columbia, Lucas Makowsky from the prairie province of Saskatchewan and Mathieu Giroux from French-speaking Quebec in the east.