Derek Drouin and Michael Mason have an outside shot Tuesday of becoming the first Canadian since Greg Joy to win an Olympic medal in the high jump.
It'll take a leap higher than Joy's 2.23-metre silver-medal winning performance at Montreal in 1976 to reach the podium, however, as all of medal winners in the past two Olympics cleared at least 2.34 metres.
Drouin, 22, of Corunna, Ont., a three-time U.S. NCAA champion at Indiana University, has cleared 2.33 metres in the past to tie a Canadian indoor record, and was one of only six Olympians to jump 2.29 metres in last Sunday's qualifying. He narrowly missed matching the Canadian record of 2.35 at the national trials.
"Has he got it in his body? Yeah, he's got it," Athletics Canada coach Alex Gardiner said.
When he was in high school, Mason, 25, of Nanoose Bay, B.C., broke several of Joy's provincial records and won gold at the world junior championships in 2004. Coming off an ankle injury that had him contemplating retirement, he's jumped 2.31 metres – the Olympic A standard – this season to qualify for his second Games.
"He's right back to among the top 10 in the world," Gardiner said.
Among the 12 men the Canadians will square off against in the final will be Robbie Grabarz of Great Britain.
Grabarz lost his government support funding a year ago, and spent two days in the pub thinking about whether to carry on. Without apparent enthusiasm, the 24-year-old was on the verge of giving up when Fayyaz Ahmed, a coach with an artistic sensibility underscored by a thespian background, told him to stop "acting like a dickhead."
"I think in every session he's been quietly saying, 'I told you so,'" Grabarz said.
Top of the world rankings is Ivan Ukhov, who became an Internet sensation when he competed while drunk at a meet in Switzerland. His attempts to raise the bar ended with him falling under it in a post-Olympic meeting in Lausanne in 2008.
This year, Ukhov has jumped 2.39. The next best is Andrey Silnov, his compatriot and Olympic champion. Then come Grabarz and American Jesse Williams, the world champion, with a best of 2.36.