TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Olympic Committee set an "ambitious" goal of a top-two medals finish at the Pan American Games on Friday but said their athletes want the added pressure and expect to thrive in front of home fans.
Delivering on that target would be the best all-time showing for Canada at a Pan Am Games but COC President Marcel Aubut said the largest delegation ever of the country's top athletes are on board at the multi-sport event.
"Canada is here to win," Aubut boldly stated in his remarks at the COC's opening Pan Am Games news conference in Toronto. "Our aim is for Canada's highest finish ever at a Pan American Games, which means top two.
"I didn't say 'two,' I said 'top two.' This is an ambitious goal, but - I like this sentence - as you know, by experience, we like it that way and our team is ready."
Aubut's goal would represent a big improvement from the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where Canada finished fifth in total medals with 119. That was 22 less than second-placed Brazil and 117 behind the United States.
To help their cause, the host nation will send 719 athletes to the competition, which features countries from across Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and North America.
Canada are sending their 'A' team in many sports, including swimming and rowing, which, given the timing of more prestigious international events, does not always happen.
Canadian teams have a combined 28 Olympic medals between them and will compete in all 48 sports being contested during the 16-day Games, which began on Friday.
According to Aubut, suggestions that he is putting too much pressure on the Canadian team are not true and that athletes have approached him and requested he raise the bar.
"Those guys come and see us and sit and tell us: 'We want you to put more pressure.' There is nobody who is better to handle the pressure than an Olympian," said Aubut.
"They know how to do it and they love the pressure. That's how they get the best from themselves. They never complain to us about pressure. On the contrary. They say: 'Keep us on the edge.'
"That's the way we operate.' It won't change until I leave this organization."
Editing by Gene Cherry