Statistics collected during the world championships and World Cup events show that Canada is on course to improve its medal count slightly from Beijing at next summer's London Olympics, winning more gold and getting big medal success from female athletes.
However, it will still be a battle to reach the top dozen countries with more than 20 medals overall, says Alex Baumann, chief executive officer of the $36-million Own the Podium project.
"There's about 14 world championships still remaining. The big ones [track and field and aquatics]are out of the way, but cycling roads, trampoline, triathlon and wrestling are among those still to come in 2011. Canadians – especially the women – do well in those events, so I'm anticipating the medal total will increase," Baumann said as he looked over statistics collected and projections made by Italian Olympic expert Luciano Barra, former chief operation officer of the Turin 2006 Olympics.
Barra has Canada with 18 medals, sitting 13th in total medals among a projected 87 medal-winning countries. That's the same number it had in Beijing in 2008. But instead of the gold-silver-bronze count being 3-9-6, it rises to 4-8-7.
Barra's 2012 Olympic list – which ranks countries according to projected gold medal wins – is topped by China at 37-33-24 for 94 medals. Second is the United States at 34-22-22 for 78; third is Russia at 32-28-31 for 91; fourth is Australia at 16-12-10 for 38; fifth is France at 16-10-18 for 44; sixth is Britain at 13-25-14 for 52; seventh is Germany at 13-20-21 for 54; eighth is Japan at 13-12-16 for 41; ninth is Italy at 12-9-12 for 33 and 10th is Kenya at 7-6-4 for 17.
Baumann, looking at medal totals, figures a country needs 22 to 26 to finish 12th. "In 2008, Cuba had 24, in 2004 Ukraine had 23 and 2000 the Netherlands had 25," he said. "I'm hoping we'll increase our medal count before the world championships are finished. Before Beijing, we were sitting at 12 [medals]after all the world championships, so getting 18 medals in Beijing was quite good."
There was concern that summer Olympic athletes would get shortchanged in Own the Podium's eagerness to turn winter Olympic potential into medals for the Vancouver 2010 Games. But some money was found via piggybacking sponsorship of summer events with winter Olympic sponsorships and the Own the Podium budget was increased in the last federal budget.
Baumann noted successes in track and field with Dylan Armstrong collecting a silver medal in shot put and two women reaching the hurdles final. In swimming, Ryan Cochrane got two world championship medals in freestyle races and Martha McCabe added a bronze in breast stroke. "Diving is on track with Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans and synchro is knocking on the door. The aquatic sports showed a good improvement and in rowing both men's and women's eights were on the podium. … There seems to be another wave coming through," Baumann said.
On the women's side in world events to come he sees medal potential with cycling's Omnium champ Tara Whitten; triathlon contender Paula Findlay; trampoline duo Karen Cockburn and Rosannagh MacLennan and Olympic gold medal wrestler Carol Huynh.
Barra's list is "a snap shot at a moment in time of how countries are doing," says John Furlong, senior adviser to OTP and chief of the Vancouver Games organizing committee.
"If you read it at its most optimistic, you could say we're going to have a higher finish in London. Or, you could also say its going to be pretty much the same as Beijing. But from my standpoint, it's a good sign. We've got good reason to think we can be optimistic. It's never predicted a result perfectly, but it's come close."