WITH GLOWING HEARTS: HOST NATION CAPTURED HISTORIC 14th GOLD MEDAL

VANCOUVER, (AFP), MARCH 1, 2010
(FROM THE VANCUOVER 2010) at http://www.vancouver2010.com/ - Canada: We own the podium, say Canadians.

Ecstatic Canadian team chiefs Sunday said their 'Own the Podium' programme had been justified, and Jacques Rogge agreed, as the country ended with the most gold medals ever won at an Olympic Winter Games.

The host nation captured their 14th gold when their men's ice hockey team beat the United States 3-2 in overtime in the Games' last event.

It put Canada one clear of the previous best golden haul of 13 held by Russia and Norway.

Before the Games, Canada vowed to win the most medals in the controversial, and hugely expensive, programme but later were forced to back down when it became clear the task was beyond them.

The programme sparked debate across the country and beyond, with some saying it was arrogant while others felt it promoted national pride.

But team chiefs on Sunday praised the performance of their athletes who finished third in the total medal count.

"As I said in the opening press conference, we were going to own the podium and we did -- the very top of the podium. Our very own Canadian team has reached a new level of excellence," said Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president-elect Marcel Aubut

"The Games have produced heroes from all corners of their country. What a tremendous accomplishment."

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge agreed that the programme had worked.

"It is paramount for the home team to win to create the sort of atmosphere we have seen," he said.

"I believe 'Own the Podium' is a success. There has been criticism but you can legitimately ask whether there would have been any gold without 'Own the Podium'."

COC president Michael Chambers said the Games had been an "unprecedented success," defending the "Own the Podium" programme as bold and well thought-out.

"Canada's athletes came to these Games not with a swagger but with a confidence that they could do what they were setting out to do. They believed in themselves.

"I truly believe that what they have done over the course of these past two weeks, they've inspired an entire nation to believe in themselves."

"Canadian athletes have won more medals at this Olympic Winter Games than any Canadian Olympic Winter team has ever won," he added.

"It is a greater number of gold medals at either a Summer or Winter Games than an Olympic team has ever brought back to Canada or in this case kept in Canada."

He praised organising committee VANOC for "inspiring a nation" and thanked the national sporting federations for their part in the success.

Canadian chef-de-mission Nathalie Lambert thanked the Canadian team for the "17 best days of my life" and for providing moments that would stay with her forever.

Team chiefs, meanwhile, announced that Joannie Rochette, who won a bronze in figure skating just days after her mother died suddenly, would carry the flag in Sunday's closing ceremony.

jw-mp/dj10 AFP, 2009-2010


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