One hundred days out from the London 2012 Summer Games, Canada's goal is to rank among the top 12 countries in total hardware, which would mean about 20 medals. Here's a summary of some of Canada's hopefuls:
The most competitive event in track and field, domestically, is the women’s 100-metre hurdles, and so it will be at the Olympics, where two-time world champion Perdita Felicien has a last chance at an Olympics to erase memory of her 2004 spill in the final. But first she’d got to contend with 2008 bronze medalist and new mom Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, an elite Diamond League winner with her eye on Felicien’s 12.46-second Canadian record. In men’s throws, Dylan Armstrong, another Diamond League winner, has the chops for a shot put medal -- if the sore arm that knocked him out for the 2012 world indoors has healed.
It’s the debut for women’s Olympic boxing but Mary Spencer of Windsor is a 10-year ring veteran, three-time world champion and 2011 Pan Am Games gold medalist. At 6-feet she’s a tall, long-armed serious contender for gold at 75-kg. Spencer learned much from and her first loss in over a year to 17-year-old rising U.S. star Claressa Shields. Spencer must qualify for London at the May world championships in China.
Canoe and Kayak
Adam van Koeverden in the K-1 has a history of winning. He took Olympic gold in Athens in the 500 metres, then added a silver in Beijing. He won gold in the 1,000 metres at last year’s world championships.
Mark Oldershaw has a long family connection with canoeing. His grandfather Burt’s first Olympics were in 1948 in London. Oldershaw is a contender in the C-1 1,000 metres. He won gold at the 2011 world championships.
Own the Podium lists 10 possible top-3 cyclists in 2012, which is grandly optimistic. Three or four make sense: World Cup leader Catherine Pendrel in mountain bike, who was fourth in Beijing and had been on the national team nine years; versatile Tara Whitten in road race time trial and Omnium, where she’s won two world championships and finished second once; Zach Bell who took a 2012 world championship silver in the men’s Omnium; and in BMX the consistent Tory Nyhaug who opened the season with two top-five rides and cracked the top 10 in last year’s London test event.
Alexandre Despatie, three-metre springboard. A two-time Olympic silver medalist, Despatie will be going to his fourth Games - he made his debut at the tender age of 16 at the 2000 Sydney Games and finished fourth in the 10-metre event. Already Canada's most decorated diver, this summer Despatie hopes to win a third medal in the springboard. It won’t be an easy task to unseat the powerful Chinese, but the Laval, Que., native has performed well since recovering from a serious knee injury that cut short his 2011 season. Reuben Ross partners him on synchronized three-metre springboard.The 26-year-old Regina product is a former NCAA springboard champion. Ross, who first learned to flip and tumble on a backyard trampoline, won bronze with Despatie at the 2009 World Championships.
Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans are medal challengers on synchronized three-metre springboard. In 2008, the 16-year-old Abel became the youngest women’s diver to wear Canadian colours at the Olympics. Four years later she is a solid podium contender with fellow Quebecer Heymans, who won silver in the individual three-metre event in Beijing. The pair won silver at both the Pan-Am Games and the World Championships in 2011 and are ranked second in the world. The veteran Heymans, 31, wonthe synchro diving medals in 2000 and 2004. Abel should also contend for an individual medal - she finished third in the three metre at last year’s worlds.
Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion, synchronized 10-metre tower, are inseparable friends. The 23-year-old Benfeito and the 24-year-old Filion have been a team since 2005, and after logging a seventh-place finish in the 2008 Games as teenagers, have their eyes fixed on the podium. The Montreal-based pair has won two World Cup medals this season, and captured silver at the 2011 Pan-Am Games. Filion is currently ranked third in the world in the individual 10-metre event, and Benfeito is rated sixth. Both could hope for a medal finish although Benfeito has had more international success individually.
Eric Lamaze has been picked by Own the Podium for a gold medal in the jumping event, but that depends on his familiarity with the horse. The loss of long time mount Hickstead which carried Lamaze to two Olympic medals in 2008, was a major setback. He’s got seven horses now as he looks for the right chemistry. Veteran Ian Millar could join him on a quest for the team jumping medal.
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