SPORTS

Canada no further ahead than Beijing as London Olympics close

08/12/2012 05:15 EDT | Updated 10/12/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - In the end, Canada fell just short of its goal at the London Olympics.

With no medals on Sunday's last day of competition, Canada slipped to 13th on the medal table with 18 — one gold, five silver and 12 bronze.

The Canadian Olympic Committee had targeted a top-12 finish in overall standings but Ukraine won a pair of medals Sunday to finish with 20 and knock Canada out of a tie for 12th.

Canada's 18 medals equals its output from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, though Canadian athletes brought home more gold and silver four years ago.

Early on, it looked like Canada was on pace to reach its goal.

Divers Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans won bronze on the second day of competition, and Canada had 10 medals at the halfway point. There were no medals for Canada until Day 8 in Beijing.

But while Canada enjoyed some surprise medal performances from weightlifter Christine Girard, judoka Antoine Valois-Fortier and high jumper Derek Drouin, favourites like shot putter Dylan Armstrong, mountain biker Catharine Pendrel and boxer Mary Spencer failed to deliver.

"We were 14th in Beijing and we really want to improve in each Games," COC president Marcel Aubut said. "Two ranks is a lot. Many specialists compare that to the effort to finish first in winter for us. That gives you an idea how demanding it is."

While 18 medals is an acceptable showing, Canada failed to win at least three gold since finishing with none as host of the 1976 Montreal Games and boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Rosie MacLennan's trampoline gold midway through the Games was the only time Canadians topped the podium in London.

"We're not a team that's like 'Gee I'm going to go for third because I don't want first.' Everybody wants to win," Canadian chef de mission Mark Tewksbury said. "It's not like a shame if you get a silver and I think that's really important.

"I ran into one of the rowers today and he said 'I really learned how to love a silver and see how precious that is.' If it's all or nothing, sometimes that's a pretty brutal way to go through life."

Canada was not without it's poignant moments, even in defeat. Christine Sinclair's hat trick in the women's soccer team's brave 4-3 semifinal loss to the favoured U.S. captured the country's imagination. The Canadians went on to win a historic bronze with a 1-0 win over France.

And while Canada's 4x100 relay team was disqualified for a lane violation after appearing to win bronze on the penultimate day of these Olympics, the fact they put up a time bettered only by the Jamaicans and Americans is surely a positive sign for the nations formerly moribund track team.

"For the past two weeks, my family and I have watched and cheered – along with the rest of the country – for our outstanding Canadian athletes competing in the London Olympic Games," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "I can speak for all Canadians in saying that our athletes represented our country with grace and humility."

Regardless of their success in their events, Canadian athletes seemed uniformly impressed with London as a host city.

"It's been perfect," said Sinclair, who was named Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony. "No issues, the people are so friendly, everything has been so organized. It's been tremendous."

Athletes raved about the location of the Olympic Village, which was close to a large shopping mall, Olympic Park and several of the venues. Language, cultural differences and unfamiliar food were much less challenging compared to some of the hurdles in Beijing and at the Athens Games in 2004.

"My eyes were wide open the whole time," silver-medallist kayaker Adam van Koeverden said. "I was just taking it all in. I'm very cognizant of the fact there are fewer great races ahead of me than there are behind me. I'm just looking forward to every single one. I want to soak them all in.

On the final day of the Olympics:

— Geoff Kabush of Courtenay, B.C., had a surprising eighth-place finish, while Victoria's Max Plaxton did not finish. Kabush was ranked 29th coming into the race.

— Dylan Wykes of Kingston, Ont., was the top Canadian in the men's marathon, finishing 20th. Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., was 22nd and Hamilton's Reid Coolsaet finished 27th out of a field of 105 runners.

— Toronto's Khetag Pliev lost to Jacob Stephen Varner of the United States in the men's 96-kilogram freestyle wrestling quarter-finals.

— Haislan Veranes Garcia of Coquitlam, B.C., was eliminated from the men's 66-kilogram freestyle wrestling quarter-finals by Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu.

— Melanie McCann of Mount Carmel, Ont., was 11th in the women's modern pentathlon. Toronto's Donna Vakalis was 29th.

MORE:cpSports