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Canada can close gold gap on U.S., but 'CTV jinx' gets Chan

Fourth-Place Medal

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Since he couldn't make a couple of jumps, figure skater Patrick Chan becomes the jumping-off point.

Chan's fifth-place finish, decent for a 19-year-old first-time Olympian, left Canada trailing the U.S. 18-7 in the medal count. Evan Lysacek's takedown of Evgeny Plushenko was the United States' sixth gold of the Games, to the hosts' three. Is there any stopping them? The second question: Did Chan's stumble uphold the fun, tongue-in-cheek notion there's a CTV jinx?

First things first. If you accept the media's medal projections (hey, Sports Illustrated had Maëlle Ricker winning women's snowboardcross, but it picked Chan for the silver), Canada isn't licked yet. It's white-knuckle time, especially with Team Canada needing a shootout to get a win over Switzerland in hockey, but the Games are young.

People forget the host country's strongest events are stacked toward the end of the Games, to keep TV ratings up. No less than six medal events that Canada is thought capable of winning are on the final Friday and Saturday of the games, Feb. 26-27. That's not even counting a certain gold-medal hockey game.

Canada has had supposed contenders fall short left and right. Just Thursday, Mellisa Hollingsworth, another Associated Press gold-medal pick from Canada, struggled in women's skeleton qualifying.

It's only natural to be standing out on a ledge when your rooting interest is behind or holding a slim lead. Anyone who had to deal with me during the final three Saturdays of the Canadian university football season will verify this, but we also know how that turned out.

Looking down the line, Canada has numerous gold-medal picks whose competitions are still going or haven't started.

Hollingsworth, women's skeleton (Friday, third in qualifying)
Jon Montgomery, men's skeleton (Friday; second in qualifying)
Christine Nesbitt, women's 1,500-meter speed skating (Sunday)
Ashleigh McIvor, women's ski cross (Feb. 23)
Women's hockey (Feb. 25)
Charles Hamelin, men's 500-meter short-track speed skating (Feb. 26)
Men's 5,000-meter short-track speed skating relay (Feb. 26)
Cheryl Bernard, women's curling (Feb. 26)
Jasey-Jay Anderson, men's parallel giant slalom (Feb. 27)
Kevin Martin, men's curling (Feb. 27)
Speed skating, women's team pursuit (Feb. 27)
Men's hockey (Feb. 28)

Obviously, not all of the above dozen will pan out. Canada does have more left in the tank, so to speak, than the U.S.

Lindsey Vonn still has the women's Super-G. Speed skater Shani Davis has a race left, plus the U.S. has realistic hopes in bobsled (four-man and women's) as well as Billy DeMong in Nordic combined.

Meantime, how about that CTV jinx? It's becoming a more familiar story arc by the day. The Canadian media trims the facts to help convince fans someone is a serious contender. Serious contender has a fairly characteristic (read: only OK) showing and then the post-hoc explanations come out.

No sooner had Chan finished his free skate and come off the ice, that perma-smile of his masking disappointment, than CTV did the spin-zoning about how it is his first Olympics, he doesn't have the experience, yadda-yadda. All of this is no doubt valid, but why not say that before instead of being a charter member of the Lily Guild?

It doesn't do the Canadian athletes any favors to condition the audience to have unrealistic hopes. Meantime, realistically, Canada still has a great shot at winning a lot of gold medals.

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