Canada eye London after good Pan American Games

Updated: 2011-11-03 15:27


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GUADALAJARA - The Vancouver Winter Olympics set a new standard for Canada in sporting achievement and this has been reflected at the Pan-American Games, assistant chef de mission Curt Harnett told Reuters.

"Canada wants to see winners out on the field, off the diving boards and in the pool. Vancouver brought that to us, it showed that we care, the athletes now know that, seeing and sensing we need to deliver that," he said in an interview.

Canadian athletes stumbled early in Vancouver last year but went on to win 14 gold medals, a record for a host country in a Winter Olympics.

Now Canada, who want to carry that ambition through to the 2012 Olympics in London and the next Pan-Am Games to be hosted by Toronto in 2015, return home on Monday well pleased with the performance of their athletes in Guadalajara.

"We're performance obsessed and I think that's the key," Harnett, a former Olympic and Pan-Am medal winner and 200 metres time trial world record holder in cycling, said on the pitch after Saturday's men's hockey final in which Canada lost to arch-rivals Argentina.

Harnett said the Canada team management was impressed with how their competitors performed, amassing 30 gold medals and 119 overall, finishing in fifth place behind the United States (92/236), Cuba (58/136), Brazil (48/141) and Mexico (42/133).

He said performance was measured by the different budgets of the various sports federations, the Olympic goals of some performers and teams with places at the 2012 London Games.

"Then there's the Pan-Am only sports and to them this is their Olympic Games," he added.

Baseball Surprise

Canada were surprise winners of the baseball gold medal that Cuba won at every one of the quadrennial Games from 1971 to 2007. The United States were runners-up in the last five Games including Guadalajara.

"The third level of objectives was a lot of up and coming competitors, athletes and basketball teams for whom I think this experience will give us a real depth on the bench in years to come," Harnett said.

The 46-year-old said that holding the Games at home in Toronto would not be an exception in how Canada went about selecting a team in four years time.

"The policy is always reevaluated (but) relationship the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) has with the federations would be the same as coming here, we're happy with that," he said.

"As much as you'd like to send top athletes all the time to the Pan-Am games, unfortunately there are other events that are maybe more important or provide other opportunities," he said.

"There is no doubt this is a great experience for some of our future stars to cut their teeth on these type of experiences."

Established elite performers like shot putter Dylan Armstrong, the silver medalist at the world championships this year who retained his Pan-Am title, also benefit from competition as much or more than training, Harnett said.

"This is critical for him too. Here's a guy who wants to get that kind of experience," he said.

Doping lesson

Harnett said Canada would learn from the Games' single doping case involving water skier Aaron Rathy who tested positive for a banned stimulant and was stripped of his silver medal in wakeboard.

"It's obvious it was an inadvertent test, it certainly taught us as an organisation that we really need to emphasise (caution) before the Games," he said.

"Unfortunately Aaron was an alternate, sometimes you can't get direct contact with all of the athletes. We support Aaron, he fully cooperated and we have to look forward."

Forward means Toronto 2015 where, according to Allen Vansen, senior vice-president of operations, "we're very focused on delivering a Games that is very Canadian, that will represent our multiculturalism and will really be a fusion of sport and culture and very accessible for everybody.

"We have a number of existing venues that are very suitable for our use. We will build five new major venues and make some renovations to 22 venues to update them," he told reporters.

Vansen said C$700 million ($707 million) is being invested in the five new venues to be completed in mid-2014 for test events one year before the Games.

He held hopes that Toronto, who has twice bid and failed to stage the Olympic Games, could see their chances improve through hosting the Pan-Am Games.

"If we deliver an exceptional Games we will open the door," he said.

($1=0.99 Canadian)