Our 'strongest team ever'

Canada's ambition "to contend for No. 1" at the Pyeongchang Olympics is a shift from the two previous Winter Games, where the publicly stated goal by the country's top sport officials was to finish first in the race for the most medals.

"As an athlete, I never really appreciated people who weren't really part of my team telling me how many medals I was going to win," said Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith, a silver medallist in rowing in 1984.

"Contending for No. 1 is what we do as athletes. It makes sense for us as an organization."

Heading into Pyeongchang with a broader target that is easier to hit, Canada's team certainly has the depth of talent and experience to both battle for the top of the medal table and win more Winter Games medals than ever before.

"We head into the games probably with our strongest team ever," Own The Podium chief executive officer Anne Merklinger said.

Germany is on a mission, however, with its athletes gobbling up world championship and World Cup medals. Canada is tracking to duke it out with the U.S. and Norway for second in the overall count.

With 26 medals from the most recent world championships in each winter sport, Canada ranks second behind Germany (34) and is one up on the Americans, according to Own The Podium.

After running a distant second behind Germany in medals won for much of this World Cup season, Canada is tied for third with the U.S. at 116 behind Germany (188) and Norway (127) heading into the Feb. 9-25 Olympics.

Canada collected a high of 26 medals in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver to finish third, but the host country won more gold than any other country with 14.

Canada's speedskaters, freestyle skiers, snowboarders, figure skaters and resurgent sliding teams are expected to lead the medal charge in Pyeongchang.

Moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury, bobsled pilot Kaillie Humphries, the ice dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, snowboarder Max Parrot, short-tracker Charles Hamelin, the women's hockey team and the curling teams skipped by Kevin Koe and Rachel Homan are among the gold-medal favourites.

No NHL players in the men's hockey tournament is a throwback to 1994 when Canada lost the gold in a shootout to Sweden. Every country scoured other pro leagues to pull together competitive teams.

Athletes receive bonus money for medals from the COC — $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. The coaches of medallists are rewarded at half the rate of their athletes.

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