Go big or go home. As a nation that spans 9,984,670 kilometres sq., this is what we know and this is how we do. This winter the Maple Leaf was represented on 29 world championship podiums in almost ¾ of all Olympic disciplines – proving our wide-ranging threat. Canada finished third overall in total medals, tied with the U.S. at 29 and just five behind Norway. What stands out from this result however, is not the depth of the medal tally but instead its breadth – especially on the new-look Olympic program.
“I come from a sport that is all about the X Games and never been part of the Olympic family,” said world champion Kaya Turski, who will carry her 2013 world title to the top of the very first slopestyle course in an Olympic freestyle skiing venue. “It’s not an easy path for anyone to get to the top of their game and (all Olympic hopefuls) can relate to those stories … I feel like I’m joining an amazing family.”
Turski is looking to join an unquestionably amazing family, sure, but also a diverse one. Canada’s 29 world championship podiums came in 11 different disciplines. By comparison, Norway compiled its world leading medal tally of 34 in only 6 disciplines. This is good news.
BRING ON THE NEW EVENTS
When projecting these recent results on to the 2014 Olympic schedule, the impressive variety is exciting for a couple different reasons. It shows Canada has a legitimate shot at finding the podium in many different events — more than the majority of the world. But looking specifically at the events making their Olympic debuts at Sochi 2014, Canadian athletes proved over this past winter season that this country is a significant threat on the new-look Winter Games program. Turski (of Montreal) indeed dominated the top of the podium in major international competitions over the past four years and added world champion status to her three straight Winter X Games (2010-12) titles and four straight Winter X Games Europe (2010-13) wins. “It hasn’t been an easy path for anybody to get to the top,” said Turski. “But all (other potential Olympic) athletes around me are so good at what they do … I feel really grateful to be surrounded by such amazing people.”
Courtenay B.C.’s Spencer O’Brien added another layer to her reputation as perhaps the world’s most progressive slopestyle snowboarder with a world title, bolstering her four X Games medal count and ramping up excitement to be a part of an Olympic team poised for excellence. “The chance to meet people on the same journey as me is so inspiring,” said O’Brien. “It really makes me feel at home knowing that there are so many people like me out there, trying to achieve the same goals.” On the men’s side, snowboard slopestyle phenom and international fan favourite Mark McMorris tacked on a world championship silver medal to a plethora of X Games podiums and a well-known identity for pushing the envelope of freestyle innovation.
LEANING ON TEAMMATES
Despite the obvious excitement around these popular action sports, a key energy point for the Canadian fans leading up to Sochi are the new team events in both luge and figure skating.
Leading a team of determined lugers is Calgary’s Alex Gough, who earned an individual bronze medal at worlds this past year. She also led her team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith (doubles) as well as Sam Edney to a silver-medal performance in the new relay event. The pair of podiums for the Canadians made this squad the only country, other than traditional powerhouse Germany, to gather more than one medal on the luge track. “Those guys mean everything to me,” said Gough about Edney, Walker and Snith. “We have this opportunity to race together and to come from what is traditionally an individual sport for most of our lives. We have such a bond and camaraderie. The last thing I do before I put the visor down is say – ‘let’s go boys’ – it’s a great feeling for all of us.”
Figure skating never fails to capture the globe’s attention when the best gather to do battle. The Canadian team not only welcomed this attention at the world championships in London, ON this past season, but it proved the targets on their backs are real. Newly crowned three-time world champion Patrick Chan knows this all too well. “We came with a young team, and this was a huge achievement,” Chan said after worlds. “We look ahead to the Sochi team event, and I feel we are really well prepared to compete there.”
Chan’s teammates carry both momentum and potential. This is exemplified by 2010 Olympic ice dance champions and this year’s world silver medallist pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Also collecting an individual world podium was Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford with a bronze in pairs. The team capped off the surge of success with a silver medal at worlds as well as the world team trophy later in the year. The Winter Games event count has increased from the 86 in Vancouver thanks to the addition of 12 new podium chances divided across seven sports and 15 disciplines. From the results Canadians posted this world championship season, it’s clear that Canadians are ready to set the OIympic bar at a height the rest of the world is still reaching for.