No one sets out to be the summer answer to Kurt Browning but hey, it happens.
Browning is forever the personification of the Canadian athlete who was a world-beater and noted that "because of stress, because you don't control the village, transportation, you line up for food, buses ... people that are not necessarily focused will get rattled by things they don't need to." Even having the wrong roommate can throw someone off.
It is tough for competitors to maintain that ocular block that shuts out "distractions." With the Games beginning in earnest with Friday's Opening Ceremony, there are a handful of Canadian hopefuls who can remove all doubt by winning.
Brent Hayden, swimming — Distance man Ryan Cochrane has been played up more as the alpha dog of Canada's men's swim team. Hayden, though, is a former world record holder in 100-metre freestyle and has had some well-heeled West Coasters help him tighten up his starts and turns. Due to the facts that his only world championship was five years ago and he didn't medal in Beijing, the perception is that he has kept the country waiting.
Milos Raonic, tennis — A Canadian being No. 25 in the world in tennis is a big deal, but the average sports fan is conditioned to see Grand Slam singles titles and Olympic medals as the mark of true success. So it's tough beans for Raonic, who has Wimbledon semifinalist Jo-Wilfred Tsonga lying in wait for him in Round 2.
[Related: Milos Raonic gets advice from The Great One]
Aleksandra Wozniak might be a better bet to stick around the singles longer.
Dylan Armstrong, shot put — The pride of Kamloops, B.C., keeps going along, accumulating second and third-place finishes in major international competition. It whets the appetite to see him have a breakthrough, even though he was sidetracked by an arm injury earlier this year. At 31, Armstrong is at the point where confidence should an immutable for him and won't cost him a fugitive centimetre that keeps him off the podium (no need to remind everyone he was 1 cm away from bronze in Beijing). He's secure enough in who he is that his primary focus at the Canadian trials was trying to help Tim Nedow of Brockville, Ont., try to meet the Olympic standard more than his own result.
Émilie Heymans, diving — Eight years later, the first point of reference with Heymans remains losing a medal on her final dive in 10-metre platform in Athens and committing the cardinal sin of admitting, "I choked." The veteran, thanks to her partnership with Jennifer Abel in synchro diving, is a near-mortal lock to be the first Canadian woman to earn a medal in four consecutive Games. But that unravelling in Athens in her early 20s will always make people wonder if had the swagger to pull off something grander.
When one wins world title after world title, there are expectations.
Heymans is in a good place, though, and is more than content to leave such considerations to the pundits.
"I'm quite happy with how my career has gone, so whatever happens in the next two weeks, I'm completely satisfied with what I've accomplished to this point," said Heymans, (Globe & Mail)
Mary Spencer, boxing — Forget about Spencer needing a wild-card berth just to get an Olympic berth; it's more important that she has been given a bye into the quarter-final thanks her larger body of work in the ring. The consecutive losses that Spencer absorbed this spring were a faith-shaker, thus putting her in the 'something to prove' gang. But that bye shows that if the form holds, the three-times world champion should do well.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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