Dylan Armstrong and Jessica Zelinka headline the 40-member squad named Sunday, the morning after a stunning women's 100-metre hurdles final saw Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep's London dreams dashed.
Canada has only once fielded a larger track and field team, for the 1984 Los Angeles Games, which were boycotted by 14 Eastern Bloc countries. The team is also one of the youngest ever, with just seven athletes with Olympic experience.
"That's pretty crazy seeing the team up there getting their jackets, I was thinking, 'I've got to learn some new names' because there's a lot of great new talent on the team," said Zelinka. "But also it's missing a lot of great veterans who have represented Canada in the past that I'm used to being around. So it was a bit empty without some of them for sure."
Triple gold medallist Michelle Stilwell and five-time medallist Diane Roy will lead the 20-member Paralympic team.
Canada has targeted three medals in London and between six and eight top-eight finishes.
The 30-year-old Zelinka, from London, Ont., will be one of Canada's top hopes, coming off a stunning performance at the Olympic track and field trials that saw her win the heptathlon in a Canadian-record performance and then capture the hurdles title in a career-best time.
Zelinka beat a world-class field including Lopes-Schliep, whose bronze was Canada's only track and field medal four years ago in Beijing, and former world champion Perdita Felicien. Lopes-Schliep crashed into Hurdle 7 in the final and finished fifth, while Felicien was disqualified for a false start.
"Certainly Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Perdita Felicien have the credentials to hit the podium — they've done it at world championships, and Priscilla has done it at the Olympic Games," said Athletics Canada head coach Alex Gardiner. "Certainly that was a bit disappointing, no doubt, but we're going to see them back I think.
"Most importantly the three women in the event, Jessica Zelinka, Nikkita Holder and Phylicia George also have the credentials to get to the podium."
The squad is one of Canada's most diverse ever. Emerging star Cam Levins of Black Creek, B.C., who will run both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, leads a large contingent of distance runners that includes three marathoners — Dylan Wykes, Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis.
Armstrong, the shot put world silver medallist from Kamloops, B.C., leads Canada's largest group of throwers ever.
"Hands down (it's the largest)," said hammer thrower James Steacy of Lethbridge, Alta. "It's definitely growing, and it's only going to get bigger from here."
Steacy's sister Heather will compete in the women's hammer throw in London. Brothers Justyn and Ian Warner of Markham, Ont., are both London-bound, Justyn in the 100 metres and 4x100 relay, and Warner in the relay.
"I'm really happy, and to be able to go with my older brother, it's my first Olympics and we're doing it together. . . It doesn't get more golden than that," said Ian Warner.
Armstrong is gunning for Canada's first Olympic throwing medal, after missing the podium by less than a centimetre in Beijing.
"It would be nice to get one in the books, that would just be an awesome, awesome achievement," Armstrong said.
Armstrong, Zelinka, James Steacy, Gillis, sprinter Jared Connaughton, Nathan Brannen (1,500 metres), and Mike Mason (high jump) are the only team members with Olympic experience.
"It's a great thing, up and coming athletes, we're getting better, we're getting stronger, hopefully we can get that top-12 as one of the goals, and get a couple more medals than the one we had in Beijing, and make a name for Canada and represent our country," said Justyn Warner, 25.
Mark Tewksbury, Canada's chef de mission for London, pulled the veterans aside Sunday morning at the team announcement at the University of Calgary.
"I told them, please make sure you set the stage and let this team know what to expect going into London, because it's so different than a world championships," said Tewksbury, an Olympic champion in swimming.
Tewksbury was at Foothills Athletic Park on Saturday to watch the final dramatic day of competition unfold.
"Athletics is like swimming, it's that head to head competition where it's all on the line, it's over really quickly, but those seconds that it's happening are excruciating to watch because you never know what's going to happen," Tewksbury said. "As usual, lots of upsets, lots of surprises, some spectacular performances, some disappointments, and you're reminded why we love sports so much. It's that duality that really connects our humanity."
The track and field team will hold a training camp in Germany and then travel to London in waves.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect hometown for James Steacy.Suggest a correction