Field of Play: 3 scenarios for Canada's Olympic medal chances | Sports | CBC Sports

Field of Play: 3 scenarios for Canada's Olympic medal chances

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 | 02:55 PM

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Canadians Erik Guay (skiing), right, and Chris Spring (bobsled) are expected to contend for medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Getty Images) Canadians Erik Guay (skiing), right, and Chris Spring (bobsled) are expected to contend for medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Getty Images)

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In his latest Field of Play blog, CBC Sports Weekend host Scott Russell gives three scenarios for Canada's medal hopes at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

At long last it's 2014 and that means it's an Olympic year.

I spent much of the work day on New Year's Eve going over Canada's medal prospects in Sochi with the help of our senior researcher Kirt Berry. We looked at all seven sports, including the separate 15 disciplines while examining each and every one of 98 events, and all the potential that exists for Canadian athletes to stand on the podium come February in Russia.

We started with the knowledge that Canada won 14 gold medals and 26 medals in all at the home Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler in 2010.

High water marks in both cases. 

We had also tracked the performance of this country's star athletes on the international stage in the present season and in the ones of the recent past. Both of us came to the table knowing that Canadian athletes are financially better supported by government agencies like "Own the Podium" and private corporations than they've been at any point in history.

3 scenarios

In the end we came up with three scenarios.  

Firstly, we were wildly optimistic and suggested that there are 49 medal chances for Canadian athletes. Included in that total are the 16 gold medallists or Olympic champions that have the potential to emerge from Sochi 2014.

So...let the party begin!

Secondly, we were extremely pessimistic and concluded that if only sure things panned out, Canada might have to settle for 11 medals and only two of them will be gold.

Let's face it...we had to consider the euphoria factor of Vancouver and this new Olympic year, which will unfold on faraway shores, could be subject to the hangover effect.

Finally, based on sober, second thought and taking current trends into account we adopted a "realistic" approach to what logically could occur at the 22nd edition of the Olympic Winter Games. 

Namely, we believe that Canadian athletes should reasonably expect to produce 24 podium chances, including 10 opportunities for gold-medal victories. For an Olympics in Russia, we figured, that's not bad.

Then again, who are we to forecast what will happen on the Olympic field of play when all things are considered?

My resolution for this Olympic year is to never do this again.

Why?  

It's simple. 

Predicting who will win a game, a race, or ski down a capricious mountain the fastest thus beating the relentless clock, is an inexact science, and therefore, virtually impossible to do with any degree of accuracy. 

The intangibles which govern the outcome of sporting competitions, most notably rare ones like the Olympic Games, often overrule the statistical data when it comes to producing champions.

No guarantees

While Canada's athletes are talented enough, qualified enough, trained enough and supported enough to win on the Olympic stage, there is no guarantee they will at the appointed hour. Only they, in conjunction with their equally equipped rivals, can resolve that one.

And the resolve to be a champion is exactly what it will take.

From beach to snow

Take bobsled pilot Chris Spring for instance. 

Born on the Gold Coast of Australia and having only recently secured his Canadian citizenship, Spring survived a near career-ending crash when he overturned his sled in a European competition in January of 2012. Now, along with Jesse Lumsden, considered one of, if not the most powerful brakemen on the planet, Spring is on course to challenge for the podium at the Sanki Sliding Centre in Sochi.

"I mean I grew up on a beach. Surf, sun and everything that goes with that beach lifestyle," Spring noted just before heading back to Germany and the resumption of the World Cup season. "I had never seen snow until I moved to Calgary in 2006 and to think I'm on the verge of Olympic greatness in bobsleigh...woah! Those can be some heavy thoughts."

Still, those thoughts have apparently been displaced by other, more powerful notions, that dominate Spring's mindset as he drives towards Russia.

"It was only a couple of years ago that I began to be in a position to really believe that I can be Olympic champion," he figured. "I'll be going into this Olympics with that goal...to be Olympic champion."

Now that's resolve.

Guay Canada's most prolific skier

The same factor seems to be at work as the Sochi Games get close for Canada's most prolific alpine skier of all-time. 

Erik Guay has been on fire of late, winning a downhill at Val Gardena, Italy, and finishing a close third in Bormio, Italy to secure the 20th and 21st podium results of his World Cup career. Those efforts vaulted him past Crazy Canuck legend Steve Podborski and into the record books.  And while Guay has been a Crystal Globe winner as World Cup season champion, as well as a world champion, the one thing he lacks on his sparkling resume is an Olympic medal.

He came agonizingly close in three races over the course of two Games in Torino in 2006, and Vancouver/Whistler in 2010. Now he may be approaching his final chance.

"I feel like for the first time in my career I know why I'm fast," Guay said from Bormio following his last competition Sunday. "Everything is falling into place right now and I definitely have a winning state of mind."

But what is a winning state of mind?

Guay was pressed by journalists on the conference call to explain why he has been so successful of late, in a season where he missed much of his preparation because of knee surgery. He was asked to account for the fact that he has challenged for victory in every race so far and is beginning to dominate.

"It's very complicated," Guay chuckled. "It's impossible to put into such a few words at this one moment."

It's complicated and impossible to describe but it may be the most important determining factor as this new Olympic year unfolds.

If everything else is equal including the preparation, the funding and the talent then the intangible, almost invisible quality will make the difference at the end of the day. This is something which is exceedingly difficult to quantify.

It seems to me at the Olympics, every champion who emerges will have made the same New Year's resolution.

They will have embraced the will to win. 

We love to hear your comments and invite your opinion on the "Field of Play." To that end we offer this for your consideration as the Olympic Year begins.


*Jon Montgomery has not been named to the skeleton team but has a slim chance of earning an Olympic berth.

Happy New (Olympic) Year!

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