Olympic team announced Friday takes a quiet confidence into 2010 Games

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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RICHMOND, B.C. - It was the quiet confidence that spoke the loudest.
Maybe the difference this time is the athletes named Friday to Canada's Olympic team believe they can win. For once they feel they have the support necessary to own the podium at the 2010 Games.
"I'm excited for sure," said Mathieu Giroux, a long-track speedskater from Montreal who will race in the 1,500 metres and team pursuit.
"Scared and nervous? Not really. It's still speedskating. The environment is going to be special, there are going to be lots of crowds cheering for us. We are going to take that energy. When the gun goes off, it's just us and the ice."
The 206-member team is the largest Canada has ever sent to a winter Games. It also is the most funded, best trained and best equipped.
"It's completely different," Clara Hughes, who was named the Canadian flagbearer, said about going to her fifth Olympics. "When I see my teammates really believing that they have a chance to win, that the performance of their life will be good enough to win, it shows me we have done many things right.
"That confidence is made from preparation. You don't get that kind of confidence looking at everybody around you and wondering why they get all this stuff. The mind set is we have everything we need and now its our time to shine."
The $117-million Own the Podium program has doled out cash for training and equipment. The Canadian Olympic Committee has set the lofty goal of Canadian athletes winning more medals than any other country at the Games.
Chris Rudge, the COC's chief executive officer, said the biggest change he's seen is in the athletes' attitude.
Just being there isn't good enough any more.
"We are going there to win," said Rudge. "We've given them everything but an excuse.
"No longer will we have a team that's on the starting line looking either way and saying 'The other guy has a better coach or more support.' We expect to do well."
Caroline Aassalian, an executive director with the COC, said it's a united team.
"It's a really well-rounded team, a confident team, passionate. They know what they want to do," she said.
"They feel like they are one team. There is no more the alpine team, and the biathlon team and the cross country team. It is one Canadian Olympic team. For that, we're one strong team and we're ready to compete."
While most athletes had already been nominated by their respective sport federations, having the team officially announced brought it all home for speedskater Jeremy Wotherspoon.
"It's a pretty good feeling to be competing in Canada," said Wotherspoon. "I've always looked forward to World Cups in Calgary.
"Now something like the Olympics in Vancouver is pretty huge."
Hughes, an Olympic champion speedskater and humanitarian activist, will carry the Maple Leaf in the Feb. 12 opening ceremony.
"I am so honoured to lead the Canadian Olympic team," said the Winnipeg native who now lives in Glen Sutton, Que.
"This is our time."
The team includes 32 medallists from the 2006 Turin Games and six world champions from 2009. Among the defending gold medallists are Hughes, speedskater Cindy Klassen, moguls champion Jennifer Heil and cross-country skier Chandra Crawford.
Nine provinces and one territory are represented, including 35 athletes from host British Columbia.
The women's hockey team will be looking for its third consecutive gold medal. The men's hockey team wants to erase the embarrassment of not reaching the medal round in Turin.
Vancouver will mark the fifth Olympics for Hughes and bobsled pilot Pierre Lueders while 10 other athletes will compete in their fourth Games. It will be the last Games for veterans like skier Emily Brydon and Wotherspoon.
"I just want to enjoy it," said Wotherspoon. "I want to have great memories of it."
Olympic rookies include cross-country skier Alex Harvey, whose father Pierre competed in Calgary in 1988, skeleton racer Jon Montgomery and figure skater Patrick Chan.
Brian McKeever, a visually impaired cross-country skier, will be the first athlete to race in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Only a handful of athletes were on hand for the announcement. Some, like the men's ski speed team, are attending training camps. Others are competing this weekend at World Cup events in snowboarding, freestyle skiing, luge and women's alpine.
The men selected for the Olympic hockey team will play NHL games until Feb. 14.
Canada has hosted two previous Olympics and never won a gold medal. That could end on Feb. 13, the first full day of competition in Vancouver and Whistler. Manuel Osborne-Paradis will race in the men's downhill, Heil will attempt to defend her moguls title and short-track speedskater Charles Hamelin will battle in the 1,500 metres. All are considered gold-medal contenders.
Led by Klassen's five medals, Canadian athletes won 24 medals (seven gold, 10 silver and seven bronze) at the 2006 Turin Games. That left Canada third in the standings behind Germany's 29 and the U.S. with 25.
Nathalie Lambert, the team's chef de mission, said what happens in 2010 will impact future Olympic teams.
"They've spent a lot of money in preparing this team because it is a platform for amateur sport," she said.
"I don't necessarily believe we need to be number one, but I absolutely believe we need to do better than we ever did before. We need to have that gold medal in Canada. We need to have more medals than in Turin."

Organizations: Canadian Olympic Committee, World Cups, NHL

Geographic location: Canada, RICHMOND, Montreal Vancouver Calgary Turin Maple Leaf Winnipeg Glen Sutton, Que British Columbia Whistler Germany U.S.

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