For Canada’s Olympic hopefuls things are starting to get more than a little tense. This week’s accusations by Americans in the New York Times that their northern rivals are unfairly using home-field advantage ruffled a few feathers.
So be it.
The downhill ski gladiators dismissed those claims as sour grapes and went on to point out that competing before a friendly crowd on a familiar mountain is one of the benefits to be gained from staging the Olympic Games in your own backyard.
“It’s kind of cool having a whole country standing behind you,” claimed world champion John Kucera of Calgary. “It takes away the whole job/race aspect of things. It takes me back to having fun and ripping around out there.”
That’s the upside of skiing on home snow. There’s also intense pressure given the fact that Canada’s athletes go into the 2010 Olympics better funded and with more of the general public having invested in their success than ever before.
“Canadians expect a lot of us,” deadpanned Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant.
“And so they should.”
These are the exact sentiments echoed by most followers of the Canadian Olympic odyssey. The Own the Podium Program has made a pledge that Canada will be a contender in every event at these Olympics. They have also boldly stated that the home country should win the medal count. They’ve convinced the average Canadian that results matter.
So that means short of staging the requisite test events in Vancouver and Whistler, where international competitors have been invited to participate, Canadian athletes will make full use of the edge that comes from training time on those rinks, mountains and trails.
It’s only natural and it’s been that way forever. Competing at home is an accepted leg up on the rest — end of story.
“I think the expectations of us are the same,” noted Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Vancouver. “It’s just that a lot more Canadians have those expectations because the Games are at home.”
They are soon to be on the hot seat in their own country. And there will be no excuses for failure. That’s why Canada’s athletes aren’t about to give up home-field advantage at the 11th hour.
– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.