First half hints at record Winter Games for Canada's Olympic team
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PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — Canada was on pace for its best Winter Olympics at the midway point in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
With 15 medals (five gold, five silver, five bronze) in the bank by Saturday, Canadians tabbed as medal favourites delivered for the most part in the front half.
Canada's previous top total was 26 medals (14 gold, seven silver, five bronze) established by the host team in 2010.
The stated target by the Canadian Olympic Committee was for the team to contend for first in the overall medal count.
Finishing atop the medal table will take a second-half surge, however, as Norway set a torrid clip of 21 medals (seven goals, eight silver, six bronze) by Saturday.
Germany (16), Canada (15) and the Netherlands (13) were bunched in a race for second place.
Germany was far ahead of any other country in world championship and World Cup medals heading into these Games.
But the Norwegians dominated the snow sports of alpine, cross-country and jumping in the first week.
The COC is withholding comment on Canada's performance at these Games until next Sunday's closing ceremonies.
"Every medal that Canada wins here at the Games is an absolute battle," Own The Podium chief executive officer Anne Merklinger said Saturday.
"At this point, we've had some tremendous performances. We have many more ahead and every one of the medal opportunities is an absolute war."
Own The Podium gives technical advice to sports federations and makes funding recommendations directing $24 million of federal government money annually to winter sport federations based on medal potential.
Canada's 2018 team is ahead of the dozen medals collected by the halfway mark in Sochi, Russia, four years ago, and well ahead of the eight at the same point at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
The next generation of Canada's short track stars emerged in Pyeongchang.
Samuel Girard, 21, captured 1,000-metre gold and Kim Boutin, 23, claimed her second bronze of the Games placing third in the 1,500 metres Saturday.
Freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury has now won everything there is to win in men's moguls with Olympic gold to go along with his world and World Cup titles.
Despite his struggles in men's singles, figure skate Patrick Chan got his gold medal in Pyeongchang along with Kaetlyn Osmond, ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and pair Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel in the team event.
Mixed doubles curling, which made its Olympic debut here, was somewhat of a wild card for Canada. John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes lacked time together as a team.
But after a tense semifinal, the Canadians dominated the Swiss for gold in a game that lasted just six ends.
And long-track speedskater Ted-Jan Bloemen says his decision to leave the Netherlands four years ago and move to Calgary to compete for Canada paid off with gold in the gruelling men's 10,000 metres.
Less than a year after a backcountry crash put snowboarder Mark McMorris on what he called his "death bed" he earned bronze in men's slopestyle behind teammate and silver medallist Max Parrot.
Luger Alex Gough's bronze was Canada's first ever medal in the sport. A second came when Gough, Sam Edney and the doubles team of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith won silver in the relay.
Edney says the Canadian athletes are feeding off the momentum of teammates' performances.
"You're not hiding away in your room. You're down in the athletes' lounge hanging out with the freestyle skiers, the speedskaters, the figure skaters," he said.
"You see the bobsled team come in and there's a sense, or vibe, they're fired up. We win a silver medal, but we get more excited to see Ted-Jan won a gold in the 10k. That gives me goose bumps right now."
There were a few misses in Canada's opener.
Canadian men were 1,500-metre medal favourites in short track. Girard was fourth and 2014 champ Charles Hamelin took a penalty and was disqualified.
Freestyle skiers Dara Howell and Kim Lamarre, slopestyle gold and bronze medallists respectively four years ago, did not qualify for the final.
Rachel Homan's curling team opened the preliminary round with an uncomfortable three straight losses before winning its first game Saturday.
Canadians are medal favourites in bobsled, men's snowboard big air, freestyle ski cross and halfpipe, as well as more short track, speedskating and figure skating in the home stretch.
The fate of the men's and women's hockey teams, as well as the curling teams will be decided in the second half.
The men's hockey team started off with a win and a shootout loss to rank second in its group. The women went undefeated in their pool at 3-0 and face the Russian team in Monday's semifinals.
Kevin Koe's curling team came out of the gates with four straight wins before suffering its first loss Saturday.