COC aiming for Top 12 ranking in 2012 Games

After a record gold medal haul and the lift from Canada's most successful Olympics ever, sports leaders are aiming for a Top 12 finish for Canadian athletes at the 2012 London Summer Games.

After a record gold medal haul and the lift from Canada's most successful Olympics ever, sports leaders are aiming for a top-12 finish for Canadian athletes at the 2012 London Summer Games.

That could translate to a haul of 20 medals — or more.

"We're going for rank," says Michael Chambers, outgoing president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"We're going to London hoping and wishing and preparing that our team finish in the top 12 countries in terms of total medals at those Games, whatever that total may be. It's probably in the high teens, low 20s, but what the actual number is depends on the spread of medals at the Games. We look at rank because we want to know where we are in relation to our competition."

Ahead of the Winter Games, the committee had set a target of winning the overall medal count in Vancouver, but didn't have any specific numbers in mind.

Canada set a Winter Olympic record with 14 gold and was third overall in medals with 26, a performance that electrified the country and made Olympic athletes such as Alexandre Bilodeau, Joannie Rochette and Jon Montgomery household names.

Besides the energizing lift from the Vancouver Games, about $24 million in annual funding announced two years ago by Ottawa is flowing to summer athletes for training, world-class coaching and equipment.

Chambers says that money will be "in full swing" ahead of London.

"That will definitely provide resources that properly applied and executed upon can really provide that after-burner boost to give our athletes a real shot at making that top 12 list in London."

Canada has been slowly improving at the Winter Games for more than two decades, raising its ranking from ninth to fourth to third.

For the Summer Games, the hurdles are far higher.

At the 2008 Beijing Games, Canada won 18 medals, including six gold. Canada finished those Games 14th in gold medals and 19th overall. The United States led the medal parade with 110, followed by host China with 100.

In 2004 in Athens, Canada was 21st, with 12 medals, including three gold. The 2000 Sydney Games produced 14 medals, including three gold, and a 24th ranking.

Chambers says Canada would like to match its performance at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, when Canadian athletes won 22 medals, including three gold — and Toronto sprinter Donovan Bailey won the showpiece event, the 100-metre men's sprint.

"We'd like to get back to about where we were in Atlanta," Chambers said. "That's the place we'd like to be in London from whichever mix of sports. And that, we believe, would have us rank in the top-12 countries participating in London."

Canada's most successful Summer Games were in Los Angeles in 1984, but those Olympics were boycotted by the Soviet Union and its allies. Canada ranked sixth in gold and won 44 medals in L.A. — 10 gold, 18 silver and 16 bronze.

As the Vancouver Olympics proved, Canada's focus on consistent improvement and its highly touted $117-million Own the Podium financing program has paid off in a record performance. The overall Canadian medal count ranked behind only the United States, with a record 37, and Germany, which took home 30 medals.

At the 1988 Games in Calgary, Canada won five medals — two silvers and three bronze — and ranked 13th.

The country slowly improved, ranking ninth in 1992 with seven medals, seventh with 13 medals, including three gold, in 1994 and fourth with 15 medals, including six gold, at the Nagano Games in 1998.

In 2002, Canada was fourth with seven gold and 17 medals, and in 2006, fifth with 24 medals, including seven gold.

Marcel Aubut, a Quebec City corporate lawyer and incoming president of the COC, said the Winter Games have given amateur athletes "an incredible boost" and created a new culture of achievement for Canada at the Olympics.

"It could change along the way but the culture now is to go for the podium and do our best," said the 62-year-old Aubut, past president and CEO of the Quebec Nordiques, a Canadian NHL franchise that was sold and moved to Colorado in the mid-1990s after two decades in Quebec City.

"The athletes believe there is an environment and the tools for them to realize their dream and be the best. It's all that culture that we really wanted to improve based on the Games here — Summer and Winter. What happened in Vancouver will give an incredible boost to summer athletes."