EDMONTON — The target is 100 medals-plus, far more than Canada’s teams have won at any of the previous three Commonwealth Games.
It sounds ambitious. And it’s about time.
Canada last hit triple digits in Manchester, England, in 2002, when athletes carted off 117 medals. The last three Games have produced just 87, 76 and 82 medals apiece. The historical high for the country was set at 129 in Victoria, B.C., in 1994.
The 2018 Games will be held on Australia’s Gold Coast from April 4-15. About 6,600 athletes from 70 Commonwealth countries and territories will take part, and Canada’s team boasts 282 athletes, the most ever sent abroad for a Games.
Medals from 275 events, in both able-bodied and para-sport competitions, will count in the standings.
“When we hit 100 we know that we’ve met our goal, so anything above that is gravy. Ten or so above that would be great,” said Claire Carver-Dias, Canada’s chef de mission and a former synchronized swimmer at both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
Cracking the 100 mark would still likely leave Canada in third spot in the medals table, behind the perennial top two of Australia and England. Canada finished atop the standings only once, in Edmonton in 1978, with 109 medals. Since then, Canada has managed six third-place finishes, a fourth and two seconds. And with 1,473 medals overall from 20 Games appearances, Canada is a solid though distant third behind Australia at 2,218 and England with 2,008. New Zealand ranks fourth with just 610 medals.
“Until Canada invests even more money at these Games, preparing athletes for these Games, it’s going to be really hard to reach Australia and England,” said Carver-Dias.
And, quite frankly, there isn’t much impetus in Canada to invest that money.
“When you go to these events, you see that the Commonwealth Games have great acknowledged importance in other countries across the Commonwealth,” said Carver-Dias. “I don’t think there is the same level of public interest in Canada.
“Part of that is because we have not hosted a Games in Canada since 1994, so it has sort of fallen off the radar a little bit. I think when you host a Games, you pour a little bit more money into sport, more money into infrastructure, and that goes to the benefit of municipalities, plus to the benefit of sport, legacy-wise.
“And you often see countries climb up the ranks, beyond their typical ranking. When you look at all of those factors, yes, I would love to see Canada climb up. I think the only way to do that is to bring the Games back to Canada.”
In the meantime, increasing the medal haul by a whopping 20 per cent over the most recent Games’ output would signal success. The prediction of more than 100 medals is based on information provided to Commonwealth Games Canada by Own The Podium officials. They perform technical analysis and provide an assessment of how Canadian athletes are trending toward each successive Games.
“We work very closely with the Commonwealth Games group,” said Mark Hahto, director of summer sport for OTP. “It really is up to them to identify the targets. What we do for them is provide an assessment on exactly where our Canadian athletes rank at this moment in time. So it’s up to them to determine what they think the (medal) conversion rates will be.”
Canada expects to do well in the big three sports of athletics, cycling and swimming. In total, 190 of the 282 team members are ranked in the top five in their respective events, meaning there are podium hopes all across the board.
Medal expectations surely rest with swimmers Penny Oleksiak and Kylie Masse, para-sport swimmers Aurelie Rivard, Katarina Roxon and Tess Routliffe, divers Jennifer Abel and Meaghan Benfeito (who is also the flag bearer for the opening ceremony), pole vaulters Alysha Newman and Shawn Barber, hurdler Sage Watson, wheelchair racer Diane Roy and decathlete Damian Warner. Canada also has the top-ranked duo in women’s beach volleyball: Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan.
The 27th medal won by a Canadian athlete or team in Australia will be the 1,500th overall for the country since the Games began in Hamilton in 1930.
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