Riding a late surge, Canada breaks record for most gold medals by any Winter Olympic host

By David Crary, AP
Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canada’s Olympic gold rush breaks 2 records

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — With a surge of victories in the final days of the games, including two more on Saturday, Canada has won more gold medals than any host nation in Winter Olympic history.

Triumphs by the men’s pursuit speedskating team and by slalom snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson gave Canada 12 golds — breaking the host-nation mark of 10 shared by the United States in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Norway in Lillehammer in 1994.

It also marks 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.

There may be more golds to come. Both the men’s curling team and the men’s hockey team have reached the gold-medal matches in their events. Should Canada win both, it would have 14 golds — breaking the Winter Olympics mark of 13 achieved by the Soviets in 1976 and by Norway in 2002.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for Canada, which 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.

And it’s been a huge relief for Canadian Olympic officials, who entered these games predicting that their five-year, $117 million Own The Podium program would enable it to win the most medals overall. The United States is on track to win that medal race, but the Canadians now seem likely end with the most golds.

“We have come on strong,” said Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “It’s gratifying from our side to see that things we thought would happen over these last few days indeed are rolling out as we anticipated.”

Rudge said the games have been a “rollercoaster of emotion” for him — and that would apply to many Canadians as the fortunes of their Olympians fluctuated dramatically over the past two weeks before the homestretch burst of successes.

The very concept of Own The Podium sparked vigorous debate across the country, with some Canadians suggesting it smacked of arrogance to predict a medals victory and many others hailing it as a sign of self-confidence and national pride.

Rudge called it a “very healthy debate.”

“What it’s 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,” he 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 that is perennially 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.

Assured of no worse than silver medals in men’s curling and hockey, Canada will finish these games with at least 25 medals overall — beating its previous mark of 24 set at Turin in 2006.

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