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During the early stages of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Canadians were awash in nationalistic pride as a steady stream of the nation’s athletes stepped onto the podium to accept medals.
With nine over the first four days, including four gold medals, the precompetition prognostication of Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut was looking pretty solid.
“Canada is here to compete – and win,” he said on more than one occasion before the Canadian contingent departed for Russia.
The goal was a medal haul greater than Vancouver in 2010, when Canada parlayed the homefield advantage into its most successful Winter Games, capturing 26 medals (14 gold).
What a difference a week makes.
Success in Sochi has slowed considerably since those heady first few days, with Canadian athletes reaching the podium another eight times over the next seven days. That includes Canada’s latest breakthrough Tuesday, when it earned a pair of silvers (Mike Riddle in ski halfpipe, women’s short-track 3,000-metre relay team).
Entering Wednesday’s action, Canada had a total of 17 medals – four gold, nine silver and four bronze – and had drifted back into fifth place, three back of the front-running United States and the Netherlands. (Canada’s four gold put it eighth, trailing leader Germany, which had eight.)
With only five days left in the Olympic competition, and a total of 93 medals still to be doled out, it is becoming evident Canada will be fortunate to equal its count from four years ago. Even Aubut seems to be tempering his outlook, somewhat.
“I will say I am very confident that we will deliver a fantastic fight for the top,” Aubut told The Canadian Press last Saturday. “We are usually very good also in the second half [of a Games]. Of course, we cannot let go many opportunities if we want to achieve this.”
Short-track speed-skater Charles Hamelin provided Canada with one of its early gold medals when he won the 1,500-metres on Feb. 10 – a victory that sent hopes skyrocketing for the Sainte-Julie, Que., native. It was suggested Hamelin might walk out of Sochi with as many as four medals, but that never materialized.
Canada’s luge athletes, who had been expected to do well, failed to claim a medal, finishing fourth and fifth in women’s singles, fourth in doubles and fourth in the team relay.
Canada still has plenty of good opportunities to add to its total.
The women’s hockey team is already guaranteed a medal, with only the colour to be determined as Canada and the United States will battle it out in the gold-medal game Thursday.
The Canadian men’s hockey team will next play in the quarter-finals Wednesday against Latvia.
Another solid bet for a medal is the team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, the gold-medal favourite heading into the final two runs in women’s bobsleigh.
Jennifer Jones was a perfect 9-0 during the round robin of the women’s curling competition and needs only a win in the semi-finals Wednesday against Britain to clinch either a gold or silver medal.
The Canadian men’s curling team, led by Brad Jacobs, has had a more difficult go but it has also clinched a spot in the semi-finals Wednesday against China.
Chris Del Bosco is a projected silver medalist in the men’s ski cross, while Rosalind Groenewoud is a gold-medal hopeful in the women’s halfpipe freestyle ski, two events scheduled for Thursday.
On Friday, Marielle Thompson, a projected silver medalist, will try to reach the podium in the women’s freestyle ski cross.