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Canada targets 19 medals at the Rio Olympic Games

August 02, 2016
Own the Podium has set an official goal of at least 19 medals for Canada and a “stretch” goal of finishing in the top 12 in the overall me ... Read More

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Canada targets 19 medals at the Rio Olympic Games

Own the Podium has set an official goal of at least 19 medals for Canada and a “stretch” goal of finishing in the top 12 in the overall medal count at the Rio Olympics.

That’s a modest upgrade from London, where Canada won 18 medals (one gold, five silver and 12 bronze) and finished tied for 13th in the overall medal standings.

This time around, the best medal chances for Canada are expected to come in track and field, diving, swimming, cycling and women’s wrestling. But given Canada’s recent success at Wimbledon, on the LPGA tour, and at various world championships, Milos Raonic and Brooke Henderson are also strong contenders, along with beach volleyball players and female boxers.

“Canada is ready,” Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer of Own the Podium, pledged Wednesday morning. “We know every medal will matter, and it’s an extremely tight medal race.”

Canada is expected to send 315 athletes to Rio.

“(That’s) larger and deeper than the team we sent to London,” said Chris Overholt, chief executive officer of the COC. “We are confident in our potential to finish in the top-12 in 2016.”

Merklinger and Overholt set out Canada’s objectives Wednesday in a conference call with reporters 23 days in advance of the opening ceremony of a Summer Games wracked with controversy. Most of the talk surrounding Rio has centred on the potential calamities awaiting athletes and visitors to the host city.

The list of potential pitfalls is staggering: from the Zika virus and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the water at competition venues to rampant crime in a country buckling under the weight of a massive recession.

But on Wednesday, Overholt set out to turn the conversation back to the Games themselves.

“The safety of the Canadian Olympic team — including our support staff and volunteers — is always our first priority,” Overholt said. “RCMP officers have accompanied us on site visits, and we’re in constant contact with the Brazilian authorities and other countries to share information and advise us on matters of security.”

Overholt pointed to Rio’s successful hosting of other large sporting events — including the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 Pan Am Games — and noted there are 85,000 law enforcement personnel tasked with watching over the Olympics. All Canadian athletes, coaches and support staff have received a security briefing and another awaits them within 24 hours of landing in Rio.

“The COC is committed to ensuring Team Canada and its athletes feel safe and secure at all times, so they can focus 100 per cent of their efforts on their performance and achieving podium success,” he said.

Overholt said a case of Zika has not been reported from 44 Olympic test events, which encompasses 7,000 athletes, 8,000 volunteers and 2,000 support staff.

“While our focus remains on ensuring the best possible environment for our team, our athletes are only focused on the competition ahead.”

Early numbers give Canadians reason to hope for a strong performance from their Olympic team. Canada has posted 37 top-five finishes in the world championships heading into Rio compared to 30 in 2012 and 20 in 2008.

The list of potential medallists is particularly lengthy in track and field, after Canada reached the podium eight times at the 2015 world championships. Names to watch include sprinter Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont.; heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Humboldt, Sask.; decathlete Damian Warner of London, Ont.; 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop of Eganville, Ont.; pole vaulter Shawn Barber of Toronto; and high jumper Derek Drouin of Corunna, Ont.

Athletes in the medal mix in swimming include: Brittany MacLean of Mississauga, Ont.; Penny Oleksiak of Toronto; Santo Condorelli of Toronto; Chantal Van Landeghem of Winnipeg; Hilary Caldwell of White Rock, B.C.; and Ryan Cochrane of Victoria.

“We know Canadians are excited to hear the stories of our incredible athletes,” Overholt said. “And we look forward to helping them turn those stories into legends in Rio.”

Article written by: Vicki Hall

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