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Own The Podium making a mark

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  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 06:00 am

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Itís turning out to be a brilliant visit to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for Canadian winter Olympians, including St. Albertís Meghan Mikkelson.

Canada had 11 medals as of noon Friday, behind only Norway and the U.S. (13 each) and the Netherlands and Russia (12 each).

The Canucks are also eyeing medals in, of course, menís and womenís hockey, plus figure skating and possibly curling.

Things are not as positive for the Americans, though. Before the Olympics, U.S. media were heavily favouring their athletes in virtually every sport they entered, including downhill skiing gold medal favourite Bode Miller (didnít medal), snowboarding gold medal favourite Shaun White (didnít medal) and speed skating gold medal favourite Shani Davis (didnít medal).

So now the blame game has started, ranging from ďthe athletes donít like the food in SochiĒ to speed skating outfits that are slowing down the American skaters.

Those versed in high-speed events like speed skating and slalom skiing know a skin-tight suit has a bit, but not much, to do with final times. The American speed skating coach Kip Karpenter was refreshingly honest in his appraisal, noting U.S. women skaters were at least one second behind the Chinese winner, a huge margin in that sport.

ďA skater does not lose a second (on the 1,000m) because of a skin suit. Anyone who thinks that doesn't know speed skating," said Karpenter. Translation: the Americans got beat by better skaters.

Many rightfully feel athletes like Mikkelson owe much of their Olympic success to their Canadian heart and hustle. There are other reasons, too, why Canadian amateur sport has surged over the last decade.

The Own The Podium program, started in 2003 by partners like the Canadian Olympic Committee and Sport Canada, had the goal of not just doing well in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, but being among the best.

Amateur athletes in Canada for decades complained that they werenít getting the kind of financial support that athletes from other countries, particularly the U.S., were getting. Own The Podium has assembled an excellent roster of generous sponsors from the worlds of government, private sector and non-profit, then analyzes where their contributions can best be used.

Obviously theyíre doing something right, doing spectacularly in Sochi and making Canadians proud.


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