Canada's Women's Eight team competes in their second heat at the London 2012 Olympics. Canada would end up winning silver in the finals.

One-gold London Games still seen as success for OTP

According to Mark Hahto, director of summer sports with Own the Podium, there is a fine edge between being a medalist and a finalist at any Olympics.

It is OTP’s goal to help Canadian athletes bridge that small, yet significant gap.

But only one competitor out of 281 reached the pinnacle of the podium at the London Games this year, making this the lowest gold medal total for Canada at a Summer Olympics since 1976 in Montreal.

Hahto believes that despite the dismal gold haul, the country’s overall ranking at this quadrennial sporting spectacle was still a significant improvement from Beijing where they finished in 19th place among participating nations.

“We’re happy that we’re trending in an upward fashion as far as total medals are concerned,” said Hahto, by phone from his office in Ottawa. “We also felt that we left a few medals on the table, a few unfortunate incidents that might have put us in twelfth place as our final position.

“But overall, we felt that it was a good effort by our athletes and our national sports organizations.”

Canadians heard their national anthem only once this Olympics, a disappointment for many who had high hopes for the country going into the Games. This was especially apparent after 2010 where they were able to hear O Canada an unprecedented 14 times in Vancouver.

Hahto conceded that having only one first-place finish was not ideal, but was also quick to point out that there is as much of a fine edge between winning silver, bronze or gold as the line between being in the medals and a finalist in the world.

The three-decade executive of high performance summer sports went on to point out that OTP is not strictly focused on collecting top of world results as part of its mandate.

“You know, we are measured by the number of medals that our athletes are able to achieve at the Olympic games,” said Hahto. “We were very happy and quite proud of our athletes with the 18 total medals.”

Own the Podium matched its total number of podium finishes from Beijing at London, falling just short of their goal of a top-12 finish in the standing with a 13th overall ranking.

Despite this, they still felt satisfied with what was accomplished by the athletes.

“We came very close to our targets,” said Hahto. “We really only missed by a single place with 13th instead 12th place so clearly we are trending in the right direction.

“We have great faith in our athletes and our coaches and our sports system so we feel if we target better, we challenge better, we hold our entire sport system accountable.”

There will be some tough decisions for Own the Podium heading into Rio. The federally and privately-sponsored initiative has begun a debriefing process to evaluate and review the support of various targeted sports over the last quadrennial.

This, he says, will aid in the decision of what sports they will plan to focus on going forward.

And while they are proud of Canadian athletes achieving any position on the podium at an Olympic Games, Hahto was willing to concede that more top finishes would have been better.

“We feel that there are some stones that we need to turn over going into Rio and to try to translate some of those silver and bronze medals into gold medals,” said Hahto.

“Certainly that will be something that we’ll be challenging our national sports organizations, our coaches to reach for the very top of the podium.”