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Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze of Canada will be an important part of Canada's medal hopes at the 2012 London Olympic Games. REUTERS/Todd Korol (Todd Korol/Reuters)
Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze of Canada will be an important part of Canada's medal hopes at the 2012 London Olympic Games. REUTERS/Todd Korol (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Canada's Hopes

Canada's top medal hopes for the 2012 Olympic Games Add to ...


Besides top-rated shot putter Dylan Armstrong, Own The Podium CEO Alex Baumann points to multiple world champion hurdler Perdita Felicien, 2008 Olympic medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep - who is having a baby in September - and heptathlete Jessica Zelinka. Men's glamour sprint events belong to Jamaica and the United States, each with seven sub-10-second runners in the 100, and nine of the top-10 times in the 200 this year. Kenyans, Ethiopians and Sudanese dominate from middle distance onward.


Canada's strength in women's boxing resides with the women. Three-time world champ Mary Spencer (75 kg), Sandra Bizier (60 kg) and Mandy Bujold (52 kg) are Canadian champions who will be at the Pan American Games. Of the 10 men's classes, Russia is strongest going to the 2011 worlds in Azerbaijan with eight medals in 2009, including gold medal heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev and light heavyweight Artur Beterbiyev. Cuba and Uzbekistan each got four medals and one title. The United States, once a mainstay in boxing, has fallen off and got a single 2009 silver.


Adam van Koeverden's history in the sport has been stellar, having won an Olympic medal of each colour at the past two Games. Unfortunately, the 500-metre sprint in which he won Olympic gold and silver is no longer part of the Olympic program. However, the 1,000-metre event still remains, and at this distance Van Koeverden has won an Olympic bronze medal and at the world championships three silver and a bronze. Also worth watching is Richard Dalton, who won a bronze medal at the C-1 200-metre sprint at the world championships last year.


With the retirement of Samantha Cools, who had been the face of BMX in Canada, along came Tory Nyhaug, who returned from a four-month layoff with injuries to dazzle the world. In the elite category for the first time this season, Nyhaug took a silver medal at the European championships, finishing ahead of Beijing Olympic champion Maris Strombergs of Latvia and behind the newest budding star of BMX, Joris Daudet of France.


Canada has had a tradition of strong female mountain bikers, and this year, two of the top three World Cup competitors are Canadian. Catharine Pendrel has been chasing French cyclist Julie Bresset all season, and defeated her at the toughest event at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que. this year. Pendrel, now ranked No. 2, finished fourth at the world championships last year and was also fourth at the Beijing Olympics. Quebecker Marie-Helene Premont is the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and is ranked No. 3 in the UCI standings.


Cadel Evans, winner of the 2011 Tour de France, could be named one of Australia's five riders and go for the incredible cycling treble of Olympic gold, world championship and the Tour. Canadian hopeful Ryder Hesjedal was seventh in the 2010 Tour. The road race is 250 kilometres for the men and 140 km for the women, and the time trial 44 km for men and 29 km for women. Canadian Clara Hughes, who won her first two career Olympic medals in cycling in Atlanta before turning to long-track speed skating, and Svein Tuft are Canada's reigning time-trial champions. Tuft was seventh in Beijing, the best Canadian result in that race since 1912. He also won the world silver medal in the time trial in 2008.


Canadian track cyclists Tara Whitten and Zach Bell are World Cup champions of the Omnium, and Whitten is also women's world champion as the six-race grind makes its Olympic debut. Whitten defended her world championship in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, winning the top international track event. Maturity and prioritizing play a part for Whitten, 30. She skipped the last World Cup race to focus on the worlds. Bell won the Omnium silver at the 2009 world championships in Warsaw, won the bronze medal in the scratch race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, and won four races at the 2010 Canadian track cycling championships.


At the 2011 world championships in Shanghai in July, China swept all 10 gold medals, leaving the rest of the world to pick up the crumbs. Canada came away tied for fourth, but missing from the lineup was Canada's most storied diver, Alexandre Despatie, out with injury. In the women's 10-metre platform, Montreal diver Meaghan Benfeito was less than two points away from a bronze medal, and had been second after the fourth of five rounds. The medal winners in Shanghai were Jennifer Abel and Émilie Heymans (silver) in 3-metre synchronized springboard while Abel took bronze individually in the 3-metre.

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