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Parti Quebecois leader plays up Quebecers winning Canada’s first four medals

Antoine Valois-Fortier is one of Canada's medal-winning Quebecers (Associated Press)When the Olympics are on in Canada, it is only a matter of when someone points out how many medals have been won by Quebecers — and it's not necessarily someone from the province.

Either it will be held as evidence that a sovereign Quebec could have its own Olympic team or someone in the ROC will fan the flames of regional resentment. Imagine Americans caring how many of their medallists are Californians, Texans or New Yorkers — without checking, what state is Michael Phelps from? — and you get an idea of the ridiculousness of it all. It's a spawn of the too-much-geography, not-enough-history thing that people conjure up to amplify differences, but hey, there's hay to be made. On Tuesday, with the Quebec election campaign kicking off, Quebec having four of Canada's now five medals became a feel-good talking point.

[Women's weightlifting medallist Christine] Girard is from Rouyn-Noranda, so wall-to-wall Quebecers, a fact pounced upon by the leader of the pro-independence Parti Quebecois, who promptly exploited the phenomenon when queried by a reporter during a news conference to introduce PQ candidates for an election expected to be called in early September.

From Montreal, Pauline Marois called it just one example of how Quebec could go-go on its own-own.

"This means, among other things, that it's another example of how Quebec could shine among the brightest ... as an independent country. We could continue to win our medals. I'm sure of it.'' (Toronto Star)

There is little questioning that (key point) Quebec gets it right with funding and sincerely supporting amateur sport, which comes to the fore more in the Winter Olympics than in the Summer Olympics. The number of medals Quebecers have won makes for a good sports-bar argument, especially when Nordic nations such as Sweden and Norway which have about the same population as Quebec (and high taxes, too) are chugging along with a solitary medal apiece. Quebec competing as an independent nation of 8 million people is not one and the same with a province of 8 million within a nation of 33 million accounting for a disproportionate share of the country's Olympic baubles.

It might be hard to see it this way when Marois' comments are considered out of context, but it doesn't have to be us vs. them. Toronto scribe Steve Simmons seemed to be getting a lot heat from commenters for a column headlined, "French-English Olympic Divide," but there was a point that got obscured by the play-to-people's-prejudices headline. Quebec collectively was ahead of the rest of the country in realizing what's now a central tenet of Own The Podium. Look for newer and/or niche events which might offer less competitive fields, steer athletic youth toward them, lather, rinse, repeat, rejoice.

[Quebec] is more territorial, more provincial, more about us vs. them, but even more than that, more about them.

Which has led to an entire subculture of athletic performance, a certain pressure that doesn't exist in the rest of the country. In Quebec, young amateur athletes are followed from an early age, written about as though they are professional athletes, sponsored better, more public, and with that comes a certain expectation. In Quebec, they don't have the luxury of being unknown. Long before he was an Olympic medal winner, Despatie was a household name in Quebec. There is also a sporting attitude in Quebec wherein they target sports — short track speed skating in the Winter, diving in the summer, for example — and succeed Olympics after Olympics in doing so. Before, Valois-Foster won his medal Tuesday, that last judo medal for Canada came from Nicholas Gill, who now coaches in Quebec. A culture of success breeds success. And if the Canadian Olympic Committee can take anything from these Games to date, it's finding a way to duplicate what occurs in Quebec and applying it to the rest of Canada.

Toronto is home to almost a quarter of the country, yet historically has produced a small number of successful Olympians. Which only makes our media friends in Quebec chuckle all the more and act just a little superior. (QMI Agency)

It is quite illuminating to note that, if you wish to be really technical, only two of Canada's 14 golds in Vancouver came in events that were contested 22 years earlier in Calgary, when Canada didn't win a single gold. Oddly enough, both came from Ontario-born athletes: Christine Nesbitt in long-track speed skating gold and the Tessa Virtue-Scott Moir ice dance team. Men's hockey should not count since there wasn't full NHL cooperation, while team pursuit wasn't part of long-track in '88.

Similarly, Canada's main medal threats in athletics are from outside Quebec: B.C. shot putter Dylan Armstrong and heptathlete Jessica Zelinka, from London, Ont., and based in Calgary.

The Team Quebec trope will never end. It's silly, though. The Ontario-born, Quebec-raised, B.C.-based Girard shows no region has a monopoly on one athlete's success, especially with so many training throughout the country and outside the country? It also does a disservice to all Canadian athletes, since motivation comes from within and not what politicians and the media ascribe to them.

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

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