Neate Sager

Canada's plan to get to the mountain top

Fourth-Place Medal

The way Canada has spread its spending out shows how the highers-up plan to own the podium at the games.

The Canadian Press released a graphic on Tuesday which showed, in bar graph form (for which this math-phobic print journalist is grateful) how the country has allocated the appromixately $117 million Cdn. on "athlete recruitment, medical support teams, international training camps and high-tech equipment."

Why does alpine skiing get the most money at close to 10.5 million? It's simple. The way the Winter Olympics work is the deck is slightly stacked in favour of Old Europe, so Canada has to do it this way.

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The Winter Games events can fall into three categories: traditional fare (alpine, bobsled, cross-country skiing, luge, long-track speedskating); more recent additions that includes X Games-genre events (snowboarding, freestyle skiing); and spectator sports held indoors: curling, hockey and figure skating.

The rub is there are way more medals to be had in the former, the events the IOC knows and loves, as opposed to what it finds weird and scary (cough, women's ski jumping).

Biathlon (cue a hack stand-up comedian, or a sportswriter: "Skiing and shooting? Who are the ad wizards who came up with this?) accounts for more gold medals (10) than hockey, figure skating and curling combined (8). Alpine skiing has 10 events. Freestyle only has six. There are 12 golds up for grabs in long-track speed skating, but only eight for short track. And so on.

Canada is on even ground in the more new-school sports. Among the traditional events, alpine skiing and long-track speed skating are naturals to get a lot of funding. We have mountains (as humourist Will Ferguson once noted, one of our defining traits is an inexplicable pride in mountains that were here before we arrived). We have a population where a lot of people start skating at an early age.

Let's face it, a small population, lack of interest (and lack of a national sports policy) means Canada will never close the gap in, say, biathlon or Nordic combined. Some would say that's not fair, but not when a North American country is trying to win an inherently unfair game.

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