June 08, 2005

Minority Shareholders, But Not Owners Yet

A few months ago, the COC and the winter NSFs announced a new joint funding structure called "Own the Podium — 2010." The program is a funding partnership between the COC, the winter NSFs, and the government funding agencies.

A little while later, I posted my thoughts about Canada's chances of achieving their very lofty goal of winning more medals than anybody else at the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver. In a nutshell, although I can understand the value of an inspiring goal, I think that the short time frame makes this one unrealistic.

Last month, the COC released some data that shows that Canada's winter performance continues to improve relative to the rest of the world (the story was picked up by several Canadian outlets including the Globe and Mail, although you'll need to register to access the article now).

Canada accumulated a total of 28 medals (10 gold, 10 silver, eight bronze) at 2005 World Championship events. Canada’s current medal haul is 10 more than in the 2001 World Championship year … Canada improved its ranking in total World Championship medals from fifth in 2001 to third in 2005 … [trailing] only Norway and Germany which captured 33 and 32 medals respectively. … Canada is rapidly closing the gap in its quest to reach the top of the podium. In 2001, the nation’s 18 World Championship medals represented a gap of 15 from first-place Germany. Four years later, Canada’s 28 World Championship medals are just five off the standard set by Norway.

This is very good, no doubt about it, and it just might point to a top-3 finish in 2006. However, just for reference, let me point out that the medal standings in 2002 were Germany 36, USA 34, Norway 25, Canada 17. Getting to third place will require a big improvement; getting to first place requires making that same improvement again. As far as my original assessment went, I don't see any reason to change it. We're still doing well in our "priority 1" sports, especially in speed skating; we're having more success in the critical "priority 2" sports, but I don't see the breakthroughs that get us past Germany.

Meanwhile, two of the "priority 3" sports that got cut loose by Own the Podium have had a brief reprieve, as the Calgary Olympic Development Association found some spare change to give to ski jumping and nordic combined. It's a good thing for the athletes involved, but it won't have much impact on the 2010 goal.

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