"And Jacques Jock finishes a respectable eighth place … a valiant effort and Jock's time is a new personal best. He's got to be pleased about this!" a CBC sportscaster exclaims.
We hear this time and time again during the Olympics. The celebration of mediocre results is as Canadian as beaver pelts.
Canucks have a longstanding reputation for pulling off gutsy performances that fall just short of the real glory. Unfortunately the reputation is deserved. While Barrick and Goldcorp mine tons of the precious metal, Canada's top athletes seem predisposed toward the lower steps on the podium.
Canada is the only country not to win a gold medal when they've hosted the Olympics, shutout in both Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988. In the Summer Olympics, Canada's all-time haul is 260 medals—58 golds, 94 silvers, and 108 bronzes*. Of countries that have won over 100 medals only Poland has a higher proportion of bronzes at 47.1 percent (Canada's bronze medal haul is 40.9 percent).
However Canada's favourite sports are played on snow and ice and the Winter Games provide a more accurate barometer of the country's athletic achievements. 37.5 percent of Canada's 96 Winter Olympic medals have been bronzes. While this ratio is nothing to hoot and holler about, France, which has roughly double Canada's population to draw on has a poorer record and has somehow avoided the "bronze medal nation" sobriquet.
The home of the Arc De Triomphe has took home 24 fewer medals at the Winter Games than Canada and 38.8 percent of their take have been bronzes. Then there is Japan which has amassed 31 medals in Winter Olympic competition, 13 or 41.9 percent of them being bronze.
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics Canada finished fourth overall in the medal standings racking up six gold, three silver and eight bronze medals. Yes bronzes still accounted for the lion's share of the loot but on the plus side it was Canada's best ever Olympic showing and signs are pointing to an even richer bounty in Torino where a double-digit gold tally is a possibility.
Perhaps Canada will show that it isn't just a bronze medal country anymore.
Addendum: an abridged version of this article ran in the now defunct Bell T.V. magazine right before the winter Olympics in Italy. At Torino, Canada picked up seven golds, 10 silvers and seven bronzes.