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The Eh Game

Canada not alone in viewing Olympic showing as disappointing

Neate Sager
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Mark Oldershaw (left) and German gold medallist Sebastian Brendel share an Olympic moment (Associated Press)_o …

Canada is not alone in turning self-flagellation into an Olympic sport.

The Great White North's 14-medal showing in London 2012 thus far is essentially in line with how it normally does in the recent Summer Olympics. Canada won 18 medals in Beijing in 2008, 12 in Athens in '04 and 14 in Sydney in 2000. Athletes, coaches and amateur sports officials, of course, should always strive for more, but at the same time, water finds its own level. If there is an issue, it's only having one gold medal, from Rosie MacLennan in trampoline. Is there an extra edge that could have changed the colour of those bronzes and silvers?

It's not a disappointing showing. You just can't convince anyone who got swept up in the blind hype that precedes every Olympiad of it; for every sober assessment of Canada's likely medal haul, there are five So-and-So Hopes To Contend. In other words, one person's conclusion that someone "disappointed" is often just a case of where an athlete fulfilled her/his expectations but not the ones inculcated by the media. If it's any consolation, Canada is not alone among countries who see their Olympic showing is a major downer.

Germany Wait, what? The fatherland is cleaning up in canoe-kayak and rowing, where it was responsible for limiting Adam van Koeverden and Canada's men's eight to silver medals (which felt like gold, incidentally). However, Germany's showing of 32 medals (seven gold) is below its normal standard.

[Related: van Koeverden scores silver for Canada]

Germany got shut out in swimming, which prompted one of its former champions to make "the rather questionable suggestion, particularly from a German perspective, that the sport 'needs a dictator' to drag it out of its 'developing country' status."


There have even been suggestions Germany's world-renowned education system inhibits the development of Olympic champions. Did they happen to notice Japan, where schooling is plenty rigorous, is right behind them with 29 medals?

Australia As previously related in this space, the Aussies are apoplectic over a slide down the medal tables, even though their five golds are good for 11th in the medal tables. The swimming program is being reviewed. There's a push to better use the money allocated for sport. Keeping coaches from quitting the country for better-paying gigs in other countries has also become an issue (if Australia is anything like Canada, someone probably wrote about this before the Games, and almost no one paid attention). But really, Australia's showing is fairly decent on the whole; from here it looks like he country's just a little too spoiled by its past performance.

They also aren't happy with Canadians noticing it. That's based on an anonymous Aussie e-mail suggestion I just received to "go back in your ice cave" and do something anatomically impossible.

Far be it to say it's pretty arrogant to believe that other countries aren't allowed to even notice Australia's unhappy with its athletes' showing?

[Slideshow: Canadian medal winners]

India — In men's field hockey, India is kind of like the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in college football: a fallen powerhouse trapped in its own past. The country used to dominate the sport, but went 0-5 in London. Cue the public shaming of the players; there is still some semblance of having national identity riding on the team's fortunes.

Of course, this is not exactly new. India hasn't won the event since 1980. As The Guardian notes, the South Asian country "have been struggling to stay competitive since synthetic turfs, not prevalent in India, were introduced in the 1970s." There probably are economic reasons for this, but it does speak to the need to swing with the times or get left behind.

Kenya — The running powerhouse, coming off six goals and 14 medals overall in 2008, has just one gold and five total. Asbel Kiprop, the men's 1,500 champ in Beijing, was unable to medal on Tuesday and Kenya was shut out, leading to a headline, "1500m collapse exposes Team Kenya rot."

That same report noted that Kiprop was injured. Kenya is famous (or infamous) for the rigorous training its developing runners go through. It's a survival of the fitting thing, with a very high attrition rate. Is burnout finally catching up to them? Incidentally, there was even controversy surrounding Kenya's one gold medal: team officials were mad that steepchase king Ezekiel Komboi went home after his race, essentially blowing off a meeting with the prime minister.

[Slideshow: Canadian disappointments in London]

United States — The U.S. will always be up there in the medal standings because its sports industry is too big to fail. But when one does the breakdown on the source of the medals, it sticks out like a sore thumb that Uncle Sam has zero male track and field gold medallists so far. This, from the country which ruled men's sprinting and hurdling: Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Bullet Bob Hayes, Jesse Owens.

That's led to American columnists poking fun at the country's collective soft midsection, writing, as Mark Kiszla did, "The American male has turned into Mr. Couch Potato. The only way we're going to win a sprint is if it's to the fridge for another beer. Is there any way we could turn the 200 meters into a video game?"

It might not be that, though.  The NCAA was once a great incubator for American track-and-field talents. But America's love of pro sports and its growing income inequality has likely had a hand in many would-be track stars pursuing a basketball or football scholarship. There aren't as many scholarships available in track, thanks to colleges' focus on the 'revenue sports.' Of course, the U.S. is faring better in distance events. A lot of countries would love to have silvers in the 1,500 an 10,000 metres.

This isn't meant to mock any of the other nations while hiding in an ice cave. The point is that feeling let down by the country's Olympic athletes is universal, not an expression of an inferiority complex.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

More Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Canada Sports:
Drouin jumps into history for Canada
Sinclair looks ahead to bronze match
Photos: Inspirational Olympic moments
Video: Despatie upbeat in swan song

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