Canada finishes second overall in combined Olympic and Paralympic medal count
Canada took a giant step forward in its quest to be the world’s top winter sports nation following a record-setting performance at the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games which came to a close in PyeongChang, South Korea, over the weekend.
With 57 trips to the podium in Korea, Canadian athletes finished second overall in the combined Olympic – Paralympic medal count. At just two medals off the leading pace set by the United States with 59 podium finishes, Canada’s second-place finish was the nation’s best-ever performance. A powerhouse at previous Games, Germany, trailed by seven medals in third place.
Finishing third overall at the Olympic Winter Games, and second overall at the Paralympic Winter Games in Korea, Canadians celebrated 16 more podium finishes than four years ago in Russia. In addition to total medals, Canada also improved in the number of gold medals, top-five, and top-eight performances in PyeongChang.
Own the Podium credits the Government of Canada’s long-term belief and commitment to financially backing the drive to the podium for Canadian high-performance athletes. Over the last four years, more than $91 million has been invested in Canada’s winter Olympic and Paralympic athletes and programs through the organization’s recommendations.
“The unique partnership between the Government of Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium, and each of our national sports organizations has shown formidable resilience and has contributed to Canada’s stellar reputation around the world,” said John Furlong, chair, Own the Podium.
“Canada’s athletes and coaches delivered under the most intense pressure and can take pride in how their performances have lifted Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Every Canadian has a hand in this extraordinary record performance by our athletes at the 2018 Games in Korea. Together we anxiously watched every breathtaking moment. There were surprising wins, heartbreaking losses, setbacks and surges and through it all a growing sense that we just might be on the verge of a whole new chapter in winter sport as a nation.”
Own the Podium was originally conceived in 2005 with the goal of helping Canadian athletes finish first overall at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Since the program’s inception, Canada’s performance has soared in winter sport. Based on this evidence the program is now more all-encompassing to include summer sports.
While providing access to top-up funding for medal-targeted athletes, Own the Podium has further expanded its impact to focus on next-generation athletes. The additional focus on this group of athletes has been supported with accelerant funding from the Government of Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and their respective Foundations. As a result, many of the nation’s rising stars officially introduced themselves to the world and captured medals in PyeongChang.
“The results in PyeongChang affirm the steady progress Canada’s sports system has made over the last decade. It is clear that this ambitious experiment, ‘Own the Podium,’ is working,” added Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer, Own the Podium. “Canada’s commitment to sending athletes fully prepared to achieve excellence has demonstrated that with great coaching, impeccable technical, analytical, sports science and medical support, and a robust, healthy training and competition environment, our country’s top athletes can take on the best in the world and reach the podium.”
A difference-maker to the success of our nation’s high-performance athletes has been Own the Podium’s Innovations 4 Gold program. Working alongside scientists, researchers and engineers across the country, the vast majority of all medal-winning sports in the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were supported through Innovations 4 Gold, including data analytics support provided by Canadian Tire, and more recently, by SAS.
Luge Canada was one national sports organization (NSO) that leveraged access to resources available through Canada’s sports system to drive performance, earning its first-ever Olympic medals at the 2018 Games.
“Over the last decade, we went from being a program that couldn’t afford to travel with much more than a first-aid kit, to one that is amongst the world leaders in the sport because of the financial, technical and staffing resources available to us through our partners,” said Sam Edney, Olympic silver medallist. “By producing Canadian medal-winners, we are building a pipeline of aspiring athletes across the country who are inspired to hop on a sled.”
Para-Nordic hero and Opening Ceremony flag-bearer, Brian McKeever, who became the country’s most decorated winter Paralympian in PyeongChang, credited the funding support from key partners, along with a changing culture in Canada, for the team’s success.
“Because our program is nearly 100 percent government-funded, our success is a product of Own the Podium’s investment recommendations,” said McKeever, who added three more gold medals and one bronze to bring his career total to 17 Paralympic medals. “When I started in 2002, there was very little funding. I was helping with wax testing and waxing skis myself. Sixteen years later, by having access to resources through our partners that help us to be our best, four first-time Paralympic athletes who represent the future of our program broke through with medals in PyeongChang. We are younger – we are stronger – we are better all around. There is no coincidence; medals inspire Canadians and motivate youth to get involved in sport and physical activity.”
With the winter competitive season now drawing to a close, work is well underway for Tokyo 2020, and preparations have also already begun for Beijing 2022. Together, with all of the key partners, Own the Podium will look for new and more creative ways for Canada’s winter sports to continuously improve.
“This is a process, a discipline,” said Furlong. “There is so much more to do – after 12 years of pushing hard, there is real optimism in the country that we can overcome setbacks and contend with confidence for top-nation status”.
Image courtesy: Canadian Olympic Committee/Vincent Ethier Photography
This post is also available in: French