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Canada aims to 'Own the Podium' at Vancouver Olympics

Mild-mannered Canada? Think again. The host of the Vancouver Olympics has been on a five-year national drive to win the most medals.

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And that’s just in the more traditional sports. The addition of X-Games sports has favored Canada and the US. This year, Whistler native Maella Ricker is ranked No. 1 going into the Olympic snowboard cross event.

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While two-time Olympic host Canada failed to win gold in Montreal or Calgary, it looks nearly certain they won’t let that happen again.

The 'Top Secret' program

The Canadians are following a well-worn pattern, with the US ramping up winter sports ahead of the 2002 Games and Beijing funding a massive bid to win more gold medals than any other country – which it did. London, too, is ramping up ahead of the Summer Games two years from now.

But the extent of Canada’s OTP program – a coordinated nationwide push between sport federations, corporate sponsors, sports-science experts, and technological innovation – is unprecedented in Canadian history, said Gary Lunn, the federal minister of state for sport, in a press conference on Tuesday.

In five years, Canada did what other countries like Australia have taken 20 years to do, added Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee and chair of Own The Podium Steering Committee.

One of the key components of the new arsenal is the $8 million Top Secret program, which has tapped the relatively cheap labor of universities to create something akin to Berlin’s infamous FES Institute that fueled the East Germans’s success.

Headed up by biomechanist Todd Alligner, the program required confidentiality agreements from athletes involved – some of whom took the secrecy game further. Snowboarders, who have been fine-tuning a new elevated plate that puts a buffer between their feet on the bumpy terrain, took pains to hide the plates with duct tape until Top Secret’s weapons were unleashed in the final run-up to the Games.

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