VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada wanted to “own the podium” at the Vancouver Games but the United States will probably end up standing on top of it the most times, the chief of Canada’s Olympic Committee conceded on Monday.
“We’re in a situation where I think we’d be living in a fool’s paradise if we thought we were going to catch the Americans,” Chris Rudge, chief executive of the COC told reporters.
With the Winter Games in its final week, the United States leads the medal count in Vancouver with 24. Canada has nine, leaving them tied with South Korea and behind Germany and Norway in the total amount of gold, silver and bronze won.
The Canadian media has begun ravaging the country’s “Own the Podium” program that provided extra funding for its athletes to prepare for Vancouver and raised pre-Olympic expectation of winning the most medals.
Rudge said it would be better to wait until after the Games have ended to judge the program’s success because Canadian athletes are considered to be strong in some of the Olympics’ later competitions.
“It’s painful to do the autopsy while the patient is alive and kicking,” Rudge said.
U.S. Olympic officials urged Canada not to give up on the athletic development program, saying that many Canadians may have taken the idea out of context.
“There is a spectacular pay-off of athletes in the long-term,” said Mike English, chief of sport performance with the United States Olympic Committee.
English said the United States developed a similar program for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, and Canada must maintain consistency in supporting its Olympic athletes.
“We are starting to see the return of that investment. It comes full circle for the delegation. It takes some time for that traction to hit on that,” English said.
Canadian officials have been looking for silver linings in the Olympic performance. Rudge said athletes who might have settled for bronze in the past are crashing out as they risk everything to capture gold in their home Games.
Reuters rates countries by the number of golds won, not total number of medals.
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Frank Pingue