In four months, the world’s best athletes, including Canada’s, will descend upon London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, held July 27 to Aug. 12. This is the third Olympics hosted by the British capital — more than any other city.
Own The Podium, the national sports program implemented before the 2010 Olympics, wants Canada to be in the top 12 in medals, which would be a slight improvement from a 15th place finish four years ago. Canada will not necessarily “own the podium” like they did in Vancouver, but there are many athletes wearing the maple leaf who will be seeking Olympic glory.
Canada has a good chance of winning more than one medal in track and field for the first time in many years. Dylan Armstrong was ranked number one in shot put and won a silver medal at the World Championships last year. The women’s 100-metre hurdles are also notable, as Canada is very deep in that event. Canada has qualified for three spots. Those seeking them include 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, 2003 world champion Perdita Felicien, and last year’s World Championship finalists Phylicia George and Nikkita Holder.
Canada is also hoping that aquatics will bring them more medals in London. Canada’s only swimming medallist four years ago, Ryan Cochrane, is one of the favourites in the 1500-metre freestyle. 2007 World Champion Brent Hayden will contend in the 100-metre freestyle. World-record holder Annamay Pierse and 2011 World Championship bronze medallist Martha McCabe will be competing in the 200-metre breaststroke. On the diving board, Canada has a wealth of talent with Olympic medallists Alexandre Despatie and Emilie Heymans competing as well as world championship medallists Jennifer Abel, Reuben Ross, and Roseline Filion.
Canada will also be strong on the water. In Beijing, Canada won six medals combined in canoeing and rowing, including gold in the men’s eights, an event in which Canada will be favoured in London. Adam van Koeverden is the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medallist in the K-1 1,000m and should also be one to look out for in London.
The Canadian women’s soccer team qualified for the Olympics in front of a home crowd in Vancouver last month and are the reigning Pan American Games champions. With first-year head coach John Herdman, star player Christine Sinclair, and former U of M Bison Desiree Scott, this team will be trying to win Canada’s first Olympic medal in soccer since 1904.
Canada’s Tara Whitten is the reigning world champion in the track cycling’s omnium event, while Catharine Pendrel is the reigning world mountain bike champion. Three-time Olympic medallist Karen Cockburn, 2008 silver medallist Jason Burnett and multiple world championship medallist Rossanagh MacLennan are going for gold in trampoline.
Karine Sergerie won silver in Beijing in taekwondo and will try for another medal in London. Also, wrestlers Carol Huynh and Tonya Verbeek, who won gold and bronze in Beijing, respectively, will seek similar success. Women’s boxing will make its debut in London, and Mary Spencer is the gold-medal favourite in the middleweight class. As of October, Spencer has a career 118-8 record. 2000 Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield and five-time World Championship Series winner Paula Findlay will also compete at the games.
Winnipegger Jason Lyon has also qualified for London in the men’s individual archery event. 2000 Olympic men’s doubles champion Daniel Nestor will compete in his final Olympics, while tennis phenomenon Milos Raonic will likely compete in men’s singles. It is unknown whether both will team up for the doubles event. Finally, should 65-year-old show jumper Ian Millar qualify for London, this will be his 10th Olympic appearance, breaking the all-time record.