Winter Olympics: Canadian Women Own the Podium

BlogHer Original Post

You might have seen it on a T-shirt. Or perhaps you've heard a Canadian woman declare it. We now have proof, though -- Canadian women really do kick ass. To date in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Canadian women have won 13.5 of Canada's 17 medals.

Leading into the 2010 Olympics, there was a lot of talk about the Own the Podium program, whose mission is "to lead the development of Canadian sports to achieve sustainable podium performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games." While we're not exactly winning the medal race, the Canadian women are giving it their best shot. It's not just that Canadian women are winning medals that makes us love them -- it's who they and where they come from that inspires us.

In one of the interviews after winning her gold medal in snowboard cross, Maelle Ricker said that she got into snowboarding because of her older brother -- that she was an annoying kid sister following him around. Being a irritating kid sister myself, I can only imagine how many other annoying younger sisters were inspired to trail after their older brothers on the slopes.

When Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold medal for ice dancing (Virtue accounting for the .5 medal) it was the first time a Russian team had not won it in eight Winter Games. It was their first Olympics.

Heather Moyse and Kaillie Humphries won the gold medal in the women's two-person bobsleigh. Moyse is from Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The province has a population of only 140,000 people; Summerside, one of the bigger communities, has only 14,500. She is the provincial hero this week, proving that small-town girls can dream big and bring home gold. Susan is a Summerside blogger who said of the community behind Moyse, "We believed."

Going into the Olympic Games, hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser was a three-time Olympic medalist. She has been on the Canadian national team since 1994, when she was 15. Wickenheiser gave the athlete's oath during the Opening Ceremonies. The women's hockey team won their third straight gold medal, and fourth Olympic medal. (This is only the fourth Olympics for the sport). She is a fantastic ambassador for hockey, and for sports in general. She also was on the Canadian softball team in the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Only four athletes in history have won medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. One of those athletes is Canada's Clara Hughes, who holds medals in both cycling and speed skating. Hughes takes it a step further though, she is the only athlete to ever win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games. She walked away with a bronze medal in these games, which she declares are her last. She's known for her donations to charities that strive to improve the lives of children and youth through sport. But her life wasn't always one of athleticism. After winning her bronze medal, she spoke of her teen years:

Asked about her donation to the local, non-profit Take a Hike Foundation, which works with at-risk inner city youth through adventure-based learning in the great outdoors, Hughes cited her own personal experience with the power that sport has to change lives.

"I was doing everything wrong," she shared. "I wasn't going to school, I was into drugs and alcohol and smoking a pack a day at 14 and 15 years old, and then I saw the Olympics -- and I was inspired to dream and to care about something in life -- and that was sport.

"It absolutely shifted my life, and that's what brought me here 20 years later."

Figure skater Joannie Rochette captured everyone's heart as she competed just days after the unexpected death of her mother. She won the bronze medal, but whether she won a medal or not she was a winner to everyone. Simply by competing under those circumstances she displayed a tremendous amount of strength and courage under very trying conditions and earned our -- and the world's -- love.

Right now, Canadian women are responsible for more than three-quarters of Canada's medals. It's not unique to these Olympic games. Check out these statistics from Actively Engaged: A Policy of Sport for Women and Girls, put out by Canadian Heritage.

Of the athletes in Olympic sports receiving grants from the Athlete Assistance Program, 49% are female (as of July 2008). Moreover:

Over 50% of Canada's Olympic athletes at the Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), and Athens (2004) Olympic Games were female.

In the last three Winter Olympics, women have won most of Canada’s medals. At the Turin games, women won 16 of 24 medals, or 2/3 of Canada’s total.

In Paralympic summer sport, women are winning more of Canada’s medals, despite smaller numbers. In Sydney (2000), women accounted for 38% of the team and won 46% of the medals; in Athens (2004), women accounted for 47% of the team and won 62% of Canada's medals.

Our male athletes don't mind giving credit where credit is due with regard to our medal count. Jon Montgomery, who won gold for Canadian in Skeleton, said that Canadian girls rock.

"You can't hold back those Canadian women. They're reppin' Canada real well. So thank you very much to the ladies."

Yes, thank you, ladies. Not just for winning those medals (though we do appreciate them) but for being you. For performing your best. For pushing through heartbreak. For giving back. For inspiring us all to try just a little bit harder.

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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