Canada is Not Going to Own the Podium - The Intrepid

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canada is Not Going to Own the Podium

Canada Olympics Day ElevenOlympic medal projections, day eleven.

According to the latest medal prediction update from FiveThirtyEight, Canada is now 6.6 medals behind its projected winnings, which arguably makes us the worst preforming country in Vancouver. By day eleven, Canada was projected to win 16.1 medals. So far, we only have 10. The COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) has acknowledged the $110 "Own the Podium" campaign's failings, and has now revised Canada's total projected winnings to 26-27 medals.

"We are going to be short of our goal, I readily admit that," said COC chief executive Chris Rudge. "We'd be living in a fool's paradise if we said we were going to catch the Americans and win."

In typical Canadian fashion, the postmortem on our Olympic floundering has already begun, while Canadian news agencies have been sarcastically referring to our Olympic program as "Blown the Podium," "Moan the Podium," and "Groan the Podium."

Canada Olympics Medal Predictions
So what exactly has gone wrong? Nathalie Lambert, one of the Canadian officials that helped develop the "Own the Podium" campaign has suggested that our athletes are suffering from performance anxiety mixed with a gold or nothing mentality that is causing many of them to burn out and fail to place.

Nate Silver at FiveThrityEight suggests that if Canada wants to win more medals, it needs to start investing more in cross-country, biathlon, and Nordic combined events, which account for 30% of the medals, and less in hockey and curling, which only account for 5%. Of course, a Canadian gold in hockey is probably worth twelve golds in cross-country.

At this point, 26-27 medals is probably a stretch, as it assumes that everything from now on will go perfectly for Canada. It seems more likely that problems that are afflicting the Canadian team will continue, and that Canada's final medal count will probably be somewhere in the high teens.

Canada's athletes have made a great showing and should be proud of their accomplishments, but it seems, as usual, that the predictions of the COC have been far too lofty.

Images from FiveThirtyEight.