Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pretty darned good Olympics for Canada in 2008!

Well, it looks like Canada will probably end the Summer Olympics ranked 19th (ranked by Gold medals) or 13th (ranked by total medals). Pretty much as expected, though a little higher (I believe the COC was shooting for 16th place, and around 16 medals).

18 medals would be our third highest medal total ever (I'm not counting the boycotted L.A. Games for obvious reasons) and it's in a sense tied for second, though in Barcelona we won 7 Gold (and 18 overall) making Beijing our third best effort ever behind Atlanta and Barcelona. Not bad at all, and there are definite signs that London 2012 could end up being our best non boycotted Games ever (it'll probably be a while before we get near the 44 we won in the L.A. Games, but I wouldn't be surprised to see our 22 medal performance from Atlanta be in jeopardy at the next Olympics!).

Very good showing by our athletes, and despite all the hysterics of the first week, there were some really good signs for the team beyond the medals. Our much derided swimmers for instance may have only won a single medal, but in Beijing our swimmers made 10 finals, and broke something like 25 Canadians records... a HUGE improvement over the last Olympics where our swimmers only made two finals, and didn't medal at all (plus, we have an EXTREMELY young and inexperienced team this year... it's a good bet the team will continue to improve and do much better in London). I'll focus on the swimmers for a moment, 'cause they took a lot of what I consider to be undeserved grief last week.

Another point of comparison regarding our swimmers that I think is worth noting concerns our men's 4x100 meter freestyle team. Our team placed 6th, but consider the following:

  • The winning team (Phelps et al.) set a new world record, DESTROYING the old one.
  • Every single team in the final (ALL EIGHT, including Canada) swam faster than what had been the Olympic record coming into the Games.
  • Canada's time (3:12.26) was a new Canadian record.
  • Canada's time (3:12.26) was faster than the world record that stood coming in to the Olympics (3:12.46).
  • Three of the eight swimmers of the first leg set new national records for the 100m (one of which was Eamon Sullivan's opening WORLD RECORD time), including Canada's Brent Hayden.
  • Canada's time was FOUR SECONDS faster than the time that won the gold in 2004, a 2004 final that Canada didn't even qualify for.
So sure, we came in 6th, but when every team ahead of you swims under the world record, and your country didn't even make the final four years ago (and yet you swam a time in 2008 that would have won the gold four years ago) that's a pretty stunning improvement!

Another good swimming story? Julia Wilkinson. She came into the Games ranked somewhere in the mid 20s internationally. She made the final of the 200IM and placed 7th, and she and her teammates finished 8th in the 4x100m freestyle relay (setting a Canadian record), an 7th in the 4x100 medley... not bad considering Canada didn't make any of those finals 4 years ago.

Now, is there room for improvement? ABSOLUTELY. However the point is that here's a young team (I'm talking about the WHOLE swim team here) that's improving by leaps and bounds, and is on track for a great Olympics in London.

Anyway, Congrats to all of our Olympians. Keep working hard, and let's see if we can build on this improvement moving in to London.

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