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Canadians Don't Own the Podium, but Maintain Pride

  • David Byrd

Canadian ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue with their gold medals

Canadian ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue with their gold medals

Canada's national government and Vancouver Olympic organizers have poured millions of dollars into the Own the Podium Program to prepare for the Vancouver Games. But the effort has not produced as much Olympic success as hoped. Canadians are still hoping to make a good showing in Vancouver.

The Canadian Olympic Committee, the Vancouver organizing committee and Canada's sport federations established the program Own The Podium five years ago with the goal of winning more medals than any other country in 2010.

The Canadian public invested heavily in Own the Podium with $117 million spent, $66 million of it was taxpayer dollars.

But with less than a week left in the Vancouver Games, Canada has no chance of winning more medals than other nations. News outlets have been full of reports criticizing the program for falling short with some headlines calling it Groan the Podium or Blown the Podium.

Ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue provided a welcome relief when they won gold in the figure skating this week. At a midday news conference Tuesday, Moir held up his gold medal and said that without the Own the Podium financial support, he could not have achieved his Olympic dream.

"I can honestly say that I would not have this thing in my hand without the Own the Podium Program," said Scott Moir. "My parents, I don't know if we would have a house right now without the Own the Podium Program. Skating is a very expensive sport and there's no way that you can do it without help from your country. And it just seems like it gives so much back."

Moir and Virtue are the first North Americans ever to win the ice dancing gold medal. In nine Olympic Games since ice dancing debuted in 1976, 17 of 27 medals and all but two golds have gone to Russian, Soviet or Russian-based teams.

Moir's mother Alma - a skating coach - says that Own the Podium provided her son not only money, but also mentors and guidance that proved indispensible.

"These are only their first Olympics," said Alma Moir. "And being at home, I don't know how they stood the pressure, because I certainly couldn't. But own the podium, with athletes who have been there, done that, um and then giving their advice and support over the past few years, that has been probably been as important as the financial."

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell says that the Own the Podium program provided help that Canadian athletes need, not only for Vancouver, but also for the 2012 Summer Games in London and beyond.

From left: Scott Moir, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and Tessa Virtue

From left: Scott Moir, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and Tessa Virtue



"The fact of the matter is it helps our athletes, it inspires our kids, it really embraces all that the Olympics has to offer all of us as a country, as a community and as a world," said Gordon Campbell.

Campbell's belief in the program seemed justified Tuesday afternoon when Ashleigh McIvor won a gold medal in front of home fans in ski cross in Cypress Mountain. The win was Canada's sixth gold medal - perhaps fewer than expected - but Canadian officials say more gold medals could come before the Games close Sunday night.

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