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Canada celebrating best-ever winter Olympic medal haul

Team also places more athletes in top 10

Canada’s goal is to win more than 35 medals at home in 2010, which would rank us first among nations.

It may have seemed like a lofty goal when the Own The Podium 2010 program was first announced, but after two successful weeks in Torino maybe it isn’t as far-fetched after all.

Canada came away from the 2006 Olympics with 24 medals (seven gold, 10 silver and seven bronze) to rank a close third behind the U.S. (25 medals) and Germany (29 medals). Austria, buoyed by a sweep of the slalom medals on the second-last day of the Games, came close to Canada’s tally with 23 medals, while Russia also improved on its post-Soviet era doldrums with 22 medals.

At the last Winter Games, in 2002, Canada ranked fourth with 17 medals.

But while the focus is on medals, Canada also came close in several events with a total of 58 top-eight finishes – 12 more than in 2002. Of that number, 21 Canadian athletes finished fourth or fifth place, and of those 21 athletes all but two are under the age of 30 and will most likely be back again for 2010.

Canada’s medal haul was also diverse, with hardware in 10 of 15 Olympic Winter Sports – more than any other nation.

"When examining Canada’s performance at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games it is clear that several of our high-performance initiatives have had a direct and positive effect on Canada’s athletes," said Alex Gardiner, the director of international performance for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"Not only did we achieve our goal of a top-three finish but we also increased our medal total and had a significant number of top-eight finishes by athletes who have their best years ahead of them. While there is no question that the Canadian Olympic Committee has four more years of hard work ahead, Canada’s results in Turin are very encouraging heading into 2010."

There is a long list of highlights and firsts for the Canadian team this year.

For Ski Jumping Canada, both Stefan Read and Graeme Gorham qualified for the large hill final – the first time that Canada has entered athletes in Olympic ski jumping since 1988.

Cross Country Canada, which won its first ever Olympic medal in 2002, took two medals this year – a team pursuit silver by Becky Scott and Sara Renner, and a surprise gold from newcomer Chandra Crawford of Canmore.

Alpine Canada Alpin had slightly worse luck, but overall had a lot to be positive about. Erik Guay could not compete in the downhill because of a leg injury, but decided to race in the super G where he finished fourth. Kelly Vanderbeek of Ontario was also fourth in super-G, while Francois Bourque earned a fourth in the men’s giant slalom.

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Team also had a solid Olympics, with Jennifer Heil earning gold in the women’s moguls. Marc-Andre Moreau was bumped from the bronze medal spot to finish fourth by gold medalist Dale Begg-Smith, a Canadian who competes for Australia.

In aerials, where Canada is one of the top World Cup nations this season, nobody made the podium but Kyle Nissen and Warren Shouldice finished fifth and sixth respectively. Teammate Jeff Bean didn’t qualify, but was the talk of the Games when he nearly landed his most difficult jump without his skis, which somehow popped off his feet on the takeoff (check out the video by going to http://video.google.com , and typing "Jeff Bean" into the search window).

Canada earned most of its medals in the long track and short track speed skating events, with Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg setting a new national medal record by making five podium appearances. Combined with her medal from the 2002 Games, Klassen is also the most successful Canadian Olympic athlete ever.

Own The Podium 2010 has committed to providing an additional $110 million in funding and support to Canada’s winter sports organizations over the next four years. That’s on top of current funding commitments from Sport Canada, the Calgary Olympic Development Association, and other national programs. Half the OTP money will go directly to the organizations, while the other half will be spent researching new technologies and techniques for athletes, as well as human performance research.

Here’s a breakdown of Canada’s 2006 medals:

Gold

• Jennifer Heil – Freestyle, Ladies’ Moguls

• Duff Gibson –  Men’s Skeleton

• Women’s Ice Hockey Team

• Cindy Klassen – Long Track Speed Skating, Ladies 1,500-metre

• Chandra Crawford – Cross Country Skiing, Ladies Sprint

• Men’s Curling Team

• Clara Hughes – Long Track Speed Skating, Ladies’ 5,000-metre

Silver

• Beckie Scott and Sara Renner – Cross Country Skiing, Ladies’ Team Sprint

• Short Track Speed Skating – Men’s Team Pursuit

• Short Track Speed Skating – Women’s Team Pursuit

• Jeff Pain – Men’s Skeleton

• Pierre Lueders and Lascelles Brown – Bobsleigh, Two-Man

• Cindy Klassen – Long Track Speed Skating, Ladies 1,000-metre

• Kristina Groves – Long Track Speed Skating, Ladies 1,500-metre

• Short Track Speed Skating – Ladies’ 3,000-metre Relay

• Short Track Speed Skating – Men’s 5,000-metre Relay

Bronze

• Cindy Klassen – Long Track Speed Skating, Ladies’ 3,000-metre, 5,000-metre

• Anouk Leblanc-Boucher – Short Track Speed Skating, Ladies 500-metre

• Jeffrey Buttle – Men’s Figure Skating

• Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards – Women’s Skeleton

• Dominique Maltais – Ladies’ Snowboardcross

• Women’s Curling Team




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