Posted by: ownthepodium | February 14, 2010

Excellence and Ambition are Canadian Virtues

I have been somewhat surprised by certain media, particularly foreign media, and frankly a few Canadians, who are trying to make something of the fact that Canada has a program to encourage excellence in winter sport. Their slant on this has been that such ambition is un-Canadian, or overly ambitious.

The Own The Podium (OTP) initiative started after Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Games in 2003. The intent of the OTP initiators was to try to have a good Canadian team (Olympic and Paralympic) performance at the Games, to promote interest in the Games nationally, and to engender pride in Canadians of our athlete’s performances. Of course, Canadian sports welcomed the new opportunities to develop their sports that would arise from such an initiative.

Canadians seem to agree with these goals. In a very recent (February 2010) Angus Reid poll:

  • a strong majority of Canadians believe that it is important for Canada to finish amongst the top 3 nations in total medal count (73%).
  • 9 out of 10 Canadians felt a top three finish at the Winter Games would have
    a positive impact on national pride (91%) while almost 8 in 10 had the same view on national unity (79%).

 A national goal needed to be set in order to focus all the sport’s attention on some target. As Canada finished tied for 4th spot in total medal count (17 medals) at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, it was decided we should strive to be first. A bold goal to be sure, but worth trying.

We assumed that meant about 30 medals.  At the 2006 Torino Winter Games, Canadian athletes had won 24 medals, one less that the Americans, and 5 less that the Germans (29). In Canada’s case, we benefitted enormously from a 5-medal performance by speed skater Cindy Klassen.

About a year ago, at the conclusion of all winter sport’s World Championships, Canadian athletes won more medals than any country, with 29 medals, 6 of them gold, with the Americans and German athletes winning 27 medals. So, there has been improvement since 2002.

 Having said this, the Olympic Games is a special event, much treasured by the athletes, and thus they all come prepared to do their best. Until the Games are over, one can not predict with any certainty what will happen.

 However, the OTP initiative has already achieved its goals, including the following:

  •  The improved Canadian performances have greatly interested Canadians in the Vancouver  Games.
  • Canadian sports have benefitted from much improved preparation for these Games, thanks to the support of the OTP funding partners.
  • The Canadian sport system has improved greatly as the result of OTP being formed and providing full-time national high performance leadership. 

So, whatever the Canadian results, we have achieved our goals. I expect by the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, all Canadians will be very proud of our Olympic and Paralympic team performances. 

Referring back to the poll conducted by Angus Reid, Canadians expressed their support for investing in and continuing a performance-focused initiative like Own the Podium in the post-2010 era (74%).

Motivating more Canadians to participate in winter sport (84%) and in physical activity in general (77%) was also seen as a positive impact of the potential result.



  1. Hi Roger, et al…..Those who are critical of our pursuit of excellence in sport, have forgotten that as Canadians we applaud excellence in whatever fields we enter: Julie Payette, several superb violinists, Glen Gould, Donald Sutherland, Terry Fox, Greg Joy, Sandra Schmirler…the list is endless.

    In every case, it is the pursuit, the intense prepartion, the personal satisfaction of knowing that each person did everything possible within the perameters of the game.

    We often say that it is the JOURNEY not the DESTINATION that counts. This is as true in sport as it is in “life.”

    I look forward to reading your blog throughout the OWG!

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