What would be considered a success for Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic team?

Team Canada at the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Canada is one of the most developed countries in the world. It ranks 10th in GDP and has been voted as the best country to live in multiple polls. Since it’s for the most part a stable country from at least an economical and political standpoint, things like entertainment and athletics get a tremendous amount of support and focus. There are countless number of world class athletes in all realms of the sporting world that come from Canada, and they do a great job representing the nation.

Despite these support systems and resources in place for athletes however, it is no secret that the Canadian Summer Olympic team has had some troubles competing with some of the favourites every 4 years. While it’s to be expected against the likes of China, the USA and Russia, Team Canada hasn’t cracked the top 10 in medals ranking since 1984, which was the semi-boycotted Los Angelo's Games.

Stepping back it makes sense for many reasons. One is simply to due with the geography and climate of Canada. Many Canadian athletes decide to go into winter based sports, and it shows during The Winter Olympic Games. Not only that, but popular team-based sports that are largely driven by the United States market draws a lot of high level talent, due to the obvious financial incentives. We can’t overlook the relatively small population of Canada either, with only roughly 38 million as well.

So keeping all that in mind, what should be the goal for Team Canada this year in terms of medal counts?

While sometimes, success can be measured with a clear line of either pass or fail, often times it isn’t that simple. No rather, it really depends on setting expectations. For every country the expectations and pressure are drastically different. Some countries are happy with simply a single Gold medal, while others would see that as a disappointment. So first we need to see how Team Canada has historically finished, so we can decide what is a reasonably achievable goal this time around.

Canadian rowers Roger Jackson and George Hungerford after winning gold in the pairs rowing event at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. (CP Photo/COC)

Here we are going to take a look at some recent finishes by Team Canada from some previous Summer Olympic Games. Let’s keep it relatively recent and say go back the last 5 Olympiads. This will bring us back 21 years to the turn of the century, when the Sydney 2000 Games were held. It is key to remember that Olympic rankings are based on number of golds, not total.

Here are the medal ranking finishes:

Sydney 2000 Summer Games (24th place) — 3 golds medals, 3 silver, 8 bronze

Athens 2004 (21st place) — 3 gold medals, 6 silvers, 3 bronze

Beijing 2008 (19th place) — 3 gold medals, 9 silver, 8 bronze

London 2012 (36th place) — 2 gold medals, 5 silver, 11 bronze

Rio 2016 (20th place) — 4 gold medals, 3 silver, 15 bronze

So you can see while not necessarily claiming that many golds, the total medal hauls are fairly impressive. And while the Olympic spirit isn`t necessarily all about coming in first, it certainly seems that Team Canada should look to continue to strive to improve each year in the medal count.

For setting expectations, certainly it is important to look to the past for a reference but we also need to analyze the present. As of right now, out of the 4 Olympic gold medalists from Rio, only Penny Oleksia has her sport secured for the upcoming games. The other three: Rosie MacLennan, Derek Drouin and Erica Wiebe still could possibly return to try to defend their titles. Because of the delays due to Covid-19 we still won’t know for certain until next month.

Penny Oleksia at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Picture by 2018 Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation.

There are of course some athletes who are currently ranked very high in the world rankings and are some of Canada’s greatest hopes for topping the podium. This includes the likes of triathlete Tyler Mislawchuk, ranked 5th in the world as of right now. We can’t forget other previous medalists like Andre De Grasse who recently came in 3rd in Diamond League earlier this week.

So combining the results from past games, coupled with the current outlook of the team, what is a reasonable expectation? It’s easy to say to always strive for first, but considering the USA took home 46 Golds alone in 2016, that simply isn’t reasonable. No, what seems to be reasonable is adding another 2 golds medals to bring the total to 6. Like the jump from London 2012 (2 golds) to Rio 2016 (4 golds), it seems like it is most certainly possible. If Canada could do this, it would probably be enough to crack the top 15 in the medal table, if we go based off of 2016. In terms of total medal count, 20–25 seems achievable, considering it was reached in two of the last three games.

Of course at the end of the day, the sheer ability to reach this stage of athletics, is a great accomplishment in itself. While the medal rankings is of course the most obvious form of ranking success at the games, simply representing your nation in a sport that you love is success in it’s own right. Lets hope for the best in the upcoming games, and see if Canada can improve upon recent history.

If you wish to reach me, you can email me at Shotarohmoore@hotmail.com

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com