The Canadian team ended the 28th Olympic Games in Athens with a total of 12 medals – three gold, six silver and three bronze – placing Canada 19th in the overall medal count by country. The Canadian team won two fewer medals in Athens than it did four years ago in Sydney but Canadian athletes achieved the highest success rate ever in terms of top 12 finishes, with 79 per cent of Canadian athletes placing in the top 12 in their event at these Games.

At the Canadian Olympic Committee’s closing press conference earlier today in Athens, Chef de Mission David Bedford announced that double Olympic medallist, kayaker Adam van Koeverden, will be Canada’s flagbearer at the closing ceremony this evening.

“I’m thrilled to be the flagbearer for the Canadian team,” said van Koeverden. “It’s really an honour to lead the team into the stadium. I wasn’t able to go to the opening ceremony because we were training in France at the time, so this makes up for it in a way that I could never imagine.”

“It was a tremendous honour to be have been Chef de Mission of this fantastic team of athletes at these historic Games in Athens,” said Bedford. “The theme of our mission here in Athens was Our Day in History and I am proud that so many of our athletes created their own piece of history during these Games.”

“We are proud of all of the athletes who competed here in Athens. We congratulate those athletes who achieved success at these Games and we share in the disappointment of those who did not achieve the results they had hoped for,” said COC President Michael Chambers. “We initially believed we would exceed our performance from Sydney but this goal was not achieved. This reinforces the need to make further significant changes in the Canadian sport system for our athletes to be more successful.”

Over the past two years, the COC initiated a number of new programs to stimulate better results in Athens and at future Games. Through the Canadian Olympic Excellence Fund, the COC invested more than $5 million in incremental funding in athletes and teams with the greatest potential for podium and top eight performances. These funds were distributed through the Sport Review Process, a new model for funding support created by the COC with the principle of performance accountability and return on investment as a requirement of funding.

The COC identified its priorities for enhancing high performance results for Canada at future Olympic Games:

Ensure greater athlete input into future high performance initiatives. During these Games, the COC elected six new Athlete Council members to provide technical counsel and to give athletes a stronger voice in the COC’s future direction: rower Iain Brambell, paddler David Ford, judoka Nicolas Gill, wrestler Daniel Igali, fencer Sherraine MacKay and diver Anne Montminy;

Contract international sport technical experts to provide guidance and recommendations for future performance success;

Build on the COC’s Sport Review Process and integrate it with the federal government’s sport funding model to ensure that funding is distributed in a more complementary and efficient manner;

Establish partnerships with other funding agencies and government to increase the amount of resources provided to the Canadian sport system;

Work with the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee to access new incremental funds from sponsors and creative fundraising initiatives.

The COC also indicated that it would work with government and other sport organizations to advocate for the following changes to improve the sport system in Canada:

Increase the depth of field (number of athletes who are capable of performing at an international level) in those sports that have the greatest probability of performance success in the future;

Create an independent, arms-length agency that would be responsible for administering sport in Canada;

Create facilities-based sport training institutes with performance enhancement teams (sport science and medical experts) that support elite training groups;

Require that national team coaches are provided with appropriate salaries and working conditions that provide both security and incentives for performance;

Advocate for an increase in direct funding to athletes through the Government of Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program from $13,300 a year to a minimum of $20,000 annually for each senior carded athlete;

Prioritize sports with the greatest probability of performance success and ensure they receive the resources required for them to be successful

“The COC believes strongly that Canadian athletes can compete with the best in the world and they’ve proven that here at the Olympic Games,” said Chambers. “By moving forward on the initiatives outlined above, we are confident that we will be able to better support Canadian athletes as they strive for international success in the future.”