Canada's Olympic medal goal still possible
The traditional Canadian press conference at the halfway point of the Olympics has been scrapped -- possibly because no one knows exactly what to say.
The first week of the Sochi Games has been confusing, mesmerizing, occasionally confounding and so full of rich Canadian stories, it's hard to know where to begin. Or explain what it all means.
Gilmore Junio gave up his place in the 1,000-metre speed skating event so Denny Morrison could race and now Morrison has two medals, silver and bronze. He wasn't expected to win anything here.
Alex Bilodeau and Charles Hamelin, who won gold medals in Vancouver, have won gold medals here. But Hamelin was expected to be the breakout star here, and that's highly unlikely now.
And we discovered, really, for the first time, that our most dominant sport isn't hockey, it's moguls. We are the moguls kings of the world. Gold and silver won by men. Gold and silver won by the remarkable Dufour-Lapointe sisters.
The Olympics got off to such a resounding start for Canada -- the best Winter start ever -- that some people got carried away. But the truth is this: the schedule played in Canada's favour early.
"That was extremely positive," said Anne Merklinger, the proud CEO of the Own The Podium program. But Merklinger is well aware that the Olympics are all about "celebration and heartbreak" and to date, with 12 medals, four of them gold, there has been no shortage of either.
Will this be the most productive Olympics for Canada? Maybe. Maybe not. The Canadians won't match the 14 gold medals won in Vancouver, even if they have a phenomenal second week. They could have difficulty winning 26 medals in total, the record from four years ago, but it's almost certain they will more than silver medals (seven in Vancouver) and more bronze medals (five in 2010) here than ever before.
"We knew going in we have a number of strong events early on," said Merklinger, "and that the middle part of the schedule isn't our strongest, but we should have a very strong finish."
The goal from the Canadian Olympic Committee heading into the Games was to win more medals than in Vancouver and possibly lead the medal count in total. Right now, the Netherlands and the host Russians have 14 medals to Canada's 12. Germany is tied with 12 and the United State has one more at 13.
I think Canadians need to celebrate the tremendous performances we've had. Some athletes we've identified for 2018 are coming through here: Freestyle skier Dara Howell from Huntsville wasn't necessarily expected to win gold. Same with Kim Lamarre in slopestyle skiing. The events may not be high profile. But the accomplishments should be.
"I won't speculate on where we are or how many medals we'll win, but we need to keep plugging away," said Merklinger. She points to some building sports that may not make a difference here but will make a difference in the future.
Canada finished fourth in three different luge events in the first week. "We're this close now," she said. "In the future, we hope to take the next step.
"It's the Olympics, it's all about the day and performing on that day."
She won't call Patrick Chan's silver medal a setback, even though he knows it is. She won't point to Hamelin's crashing out in a race he hoped for gold stunning: She'll use the word unfortunate.
This has neither been a perfect week for the Canadian Olympic team nor a particularly difficult one. Canada probably leads the Olympics in great stories -- see Junio and Morrison, see Justin Wadsworth and a cross-country ski -- and that is still what separates this event from any other. It is all about sport, all about stories.
With a week to go, there is still much to uncover. There are four medals to be won or lost at the team sports, hockey and curling, and one of them, the women's hockey medal, assured before the Games began.
There is Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyce, the dominant female bobsled team. There are the defending gold-medal ice dancers, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, to compete, although they're in tough to repeat as gold medal winners this time.
There are relays in short- and long-track speed skating that should produce medals and then there are the newer Olympic sports to come, ski cross and snowboard cross, other snowboarding events, other freestyle skiing events, which by could produce 14 medals in the final week on the schedule.
Fourteen plus 12 equals 26. If that happens in Week 2, the number ties Vancouver. Can't be unhappy about that.
CRASH CLAIMS RIVAL
There was blood on Eduardo Alvarez's swollen lip and clearly his face had seen better days.
Alvarez was victim to Charles Hamelin's fall in the men's 1,000-metre speed skating race. He was in third place in his heat, behind Hamelin, when Hamelin lost an edge, fell and took the American Alvarez out of the race, too.
"I think he made some contract (on me) with his elbow," he said of Hamelin.
"He got me good. My dad would be proud." Alvarez, the Miami-born son of Cuban immigrants, might be the least likely short-track speed skater in the world.
But surprisingly, he wasn't bitter about Hamelin taking him out of the race. He was rather resigned to the old axiom that stuff happens in short track.
"He's a great skater," Alvarez said of Hamelin. "This is really unfortunate for him. But it's unfortunate for me. It cost me my day. It's a freak thing.
"Now I have to go clean up my face."
Are you happy with Canada's performance so far at these Games?