Canadians satisfied despite missing out on top spot

SOCHI, Russia Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:04am EST

1 of 9. Canada's Sidney Crosby (front) celebrates after scoring against Sweden during the second period of their men's ice hockey gold medal match at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games February 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Canadians are satisfied with having cemented their place among the world's top winter sports nations even though they fell short of the coveted top spot in the Olympics medals table.

The Canadians have nine golds so far and can add to that when they meet Sweden in the ice hockey final on Sunday, a match that is sure to draw a huge television audience back home.

Canadian chef de mission Steve Podborski detected a more ruthless streak in his athletes.

"We had four or five double podiums, nine gold medals. Certainly, when you ask Canadians to step up they can do it," the former Alpine skier told reporters.

"Our Canadian world has become more aligned with this striving to be the best. And we can still be the same Canadians, nice and humble. It's fun to be good at something."

Canada is reaping the benefits of its "Own The Podium" strategy, a government-backed program launched a decade ago to develop elite athletes.

That helped Canada to win 14 gold medals on its home ground in Vancouver in 2010, topping the overall medal table.

This year's hosts Russia have displaced the Canadians at the summit of the standings in Sochi.

"Our aim was to target the number one spot in the total of medals," said Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut.

"We always knew this would be ambitious. You know - a couple of medals will make the difference and that is precisely what happened," he added.

Retaining the ice hockey title would put further gloss on a Canadian performance which has been marked by some memorable family moments.

In the freestyle skiing moguls, sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe took the top two spots on the podium.

The gold-medal winning men's curling team featured brothers Ryan and E.J. Harnden, led by their cousin Brad Jacobs.

(Writing by Keith Weir; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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