February 9, 2010 / 5:16 PM / 8 years ago

Take medals monkey off our back, VANOC urges athletes

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian athletes will win gold medals at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and end a barren run for the host country which has failed to win any in the two previous Olympics it hosted, Games organizers said on Tuesday.

<p>Team Canada's general manager Steve Yzerman pauses as he announces Canada's Olympic men's hockey team in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, December 30, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>

“We’d really like to get that monkey off our back,” said Games chief John Furlong.

“I would love to be in the brain of that athlete for 15 seconds to understand how it feels to be the first Canadian to win gold (on home soil),” he told a small group of reporters.

Canada has hosted the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, failing on both occasions to win a gold medal.

The host country is banking on several gold medals this time with speedskating and ice hockey among the frontrunners in the Feb 12-28 Vancouver Games.

Canada’s ambitious goal is to top the medals table but many in the country would consider it a hollow achievement unless the men’s hockey gold was among the final tally.

Hockey’s place in Canadian culture is closer to religion than a simple sporting pastime, a unifying force in a country of 33 million people that is often split by politics and language.

Furlong said that while the men’s ice hockey gold medal would be the crowning glory for the hosts and greatly determine how the Games would be remembered by Canadians, winning it in other sports would be equally important.

“It will give the country a broader appreciation for all the other sports, part of a grand story,” said Furlong.

“Obviously winning the hockey medal on the last day would be a great finish. Honestly, I do not know who would be running the country on that day (if Canada won),” he said.

Editing by Jon Bramley

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