2010 Olympics column: Conquering Canada
February 19, 2010
Vancouver put up the decorations, sent out the invites, shelled out for some major redecorating, and now it’s watching the United States crash its party.
Canada’s Games? These Olympics are turning into a two-week run of and#8220;American Idol.and#8221;
And the hosts, between all the questions about warm weather, balky flame cauldrons and the safety of a new luge track, are getting a little peeved.
The U.S. broke its own record for most Winter Olympic medals on Wednesday, claiming six total, three of them gold.
The onslaught continued Thursday, with Squaw Valley’s Julia Mancuso winning another silver in the combined and the U.S. women picking up right where Shaun White and Scotty Lago left off in the Cypress halfpipe.
As it stands, the U.S. now leads the medal count with 17, including five golds, followed by Germany with 11 medals.
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Meanwhile, Canada is killing it in curling.
Actually, the host country has had plenty to cheer about. Canada struck gold for the first time in an Olympics on home soil Sunday night when Quebec’s Alexandre Bilodeau pulled off a stunner in the men’s moguls. Celebrations abounded in the streets, and CTV and#8212; Canada’s host network for these Games and#8212; knew it had gold, too, mining the story for hours on end.
There was also the big upset on Tuesday at slushy Cypress Mountain, when American boardercrosser Lindsey Jacobellis failed to atone for her gaffe in Turin and win a medal that everyone expected she would get just for showing up. Instead, it was Canadian Maelle Ricker, in her third Olympics and in her second Olympic discipline, who finally crossed off the goal of a lifetime.
Add that to a speedskating gold from Christine Nesbitt and you’d think all of British Columbia would be happier than a grizzly during salmon spawning season.
It is. And then it isn’t.
Seriously, how would you feel if Mexico came and won the most medals at a U.S. Olympics?
You might feel like the rowdy throngs who poured into the streets outside of Canada Hockey Place on Tuesday night after the men’s hockey team beat the pants off Norway, 8-0. You might feel like chanting and#8220;USA, Go Away!and#8221; which is what some hordes of young Canadians did in the midst of their big win.
Enough with all the talk about the sanctity of Olympic competition, the tradition, the spirit, the eternal flame.
What really matters is the medals.
It’s why Canadian Olympic officials rolled out an and#8220;Own the Podiumand#8221; campaign before these Winter Games began. It’s why every publication covering these Olympics runs a daily medal count. And it’s why a small army of sportswriters descended on Whistler on Wednesday to cover Lindsey Vonn’s opening race of these Games to see whether she would or wouldn’t win gold.
Canadian officials, for their part, have backtracked a little on the whole and#8220;Own the Podiumand#8221; thing.
and#8220;We put that out as a goal or objective,and#8221; said Chris Rudge, Canada’s chief Olympic executive officer, in a press conference Thursday. and#8220;No one ever said we would own the podium.and#8221;
Except you did when you made it official.
And now Canadians are sick of seeing Americans renting the podiums that they bought and paid for here in Vancouver.
It’s why they can’t wait for Sunday when a loaded Team Canada hockey squad faces off with the United States men.
Don’t tell them that this will be a bunch of well-paid professional athletes, lots of whom play on the same teams in the NHL and who probably don’t care as much about medals as they do, playing in what amounts to an all-star game that actually counts.
They don’t want to hear it. This is for the pride of Canada. This is to prove a point.
Canada is out for blood. It has to win.
And if it doesn’t, it might be time for Americans in Vancouver, so welcomed by their hosts when these Games opened, to run and duck for cover.
and#8212; Nate Peterson is a sportswriter for The Aspen Times.