Canada has improved its medal total every year since 1984, and that trend is expected to continue on home snow and ice in Vancouver. Canadian athletes won 24 medals in Torino, and that number could eclipse 30 in 2010. Canada has never won a gold medal at a home Olympics, but that too should change in Vancouver.
No events mean more to the host country than men's and women's ice hockey. Both teams won gold in Salt Lake, but only the women were able to repeat in 2006; the men finished a disastrous 7th, leading to much second-guessing as to roster composition. Sidney Crosby, then only 18, was left off the Torino roster, but was given a spot on the 2010 squad and will be relied on heavily. The women's hockey team has finished second to the United States in the last two world championships; the two North American nations are almost assured to be playing for gold in Vancouver.
The Canadians are strong in figure skating, with the potential to win a medal in all four events. 19-year-old Patrick Chan is the 2009 world silver medalist and is one of five or six skaters with a legitimate chance to win the wide open men's event. Joannie Rochette, also a 2009 world silver medalist, is the top female Canadian skater. Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir claimed the 2009 world bronze medal; partners since 1997, they have a good chance at an Olympic medal on home ice. In pairs, Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison finished third at the 2008 Worlds but fell to seventh at last year's event. Each one of these skaters won their discipline at the 2010 Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
Canada has a deep roster of female speed skaters, several of whom can win multiple medals. Cindy Klassen won five medals in Torino but missed the entire 2008-09 season after arthroscopic surgery on both knees in July 2008. Klassen did not win any races this season and her potential for success at the Olympics has diminished greatly, leaving Kristina Groves and Christine Nesbitt poised to become the Canadian standard-bearers. Nesbitt won 1000m gold and 1500m bronze at the 2009 Single Distance Worlds and Groves won two individual bronze medals at the event, which saw Canada take gold in the team pursuit.
Short track should also add to the host country's medal output. On the men's side, Canada looks to be only a slight notch below the level of South Korea and the United States. Charles Hamelin helped Canada to relay silver in Torino and has the ability to reach the final in any of the individual events. Olivier Jean and Francois-Louis Tremblay can also be in the medal hunt. On the women's side, Kalyna Roberge was fourth in the Torino 500m and helped Canada to relay silver.
Canada enjoyed somewhat surprising successes in both Alpine and freestyle skiing during the 2008-09 winter season. No Canadian has won an Olympic Alpine medal since Edi Podivinsky won downhill bronze in 1994, but there are a few skiers with an outside chance to reach the podium in 2010. John Kucera was the surprise 2009 world champion in the downhill, but he broke his left leg during competition in late November 2009 and will not be able to compete during the Winter Games. Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Erik Guay were fifth and sixth respectively in the downhill season standings last winter. On the women's side, Britt Janyk will be racing on her home mountain in 2010 - the finish line is roughly 300 feet from her family's house - and should be considered a dark horse in the downhill.
In freestyle skiing, 2006 Olympic moguls gold medalist Jennifer Heil is one of the gold medal favorites again in 2010. Heil won the 2009 World Cup event at Cypress Mountain, site of the Olympic moguls competition. Kristi Richards can also contend for a podium finish in the event. In men's moguls, Alexandre Bilodeau was the overall World Cup moguls champion in 2008-09. Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau and Vincent Marquis have also been consistent top-five performers on the World Cup circuit. In men's aerials, Steve Omischl has dominated the World Cup circuit during each of the past three seasons. He is the favorite for Olympic gold but the pressure will be on - despite being among the world's elite for years, he failed to win a medal in Salt Lake or Torino.
Snowboarding will also be held at Cypress, and Canada's best medal hopes come in men's parallel giant slalom and women's snowboard cross. Jasey-Jay Anderson was third in the overall World Cup standings in 2008-09 and won the final two events of the season. Matthew Morison also has the potential to win a PGS medal in 2010. In women's snowboard cross, Maelle Ricker and Dominique Maltais were second and fourth in the 2008-09 World Cup standings, respectively. While American Lindsey Jacobellis is the favorite in the event, both Ricker and Maltais have the talent to reach the final, and once there, anything can happen in snowboard cross.
Bobsled and skeleton should also be strong sports for the host country. Pierre Lueders, in his fifth Olympics, is a threat in both the two-man and four-man bobsled events. Both of his Olympic medals have come in two-man competition: gold in Nagano and silver in Torino. At 39, Lueders is no longer in peak form, but can still be an outside medal contender. In women's bobsled, Helen Upperton has been consistently close in the major international events; she was fourth in Torino and at the 2008 and 2009 Worlds. Canada won three skeleton medals in Torino and is likely to pick up multiple medals in 2010. Jon Montgomery and Jeff Pain finished first and third, respectively, at the 2009 pre-Olympic World Cup test event in Whistler. Canada can also claim one of the world's top women's skeleton athletes in Mellisa Hollingsworth, who won bronze in Torino.
The Canadian women's team, skipped by Cheryl Bernard, will benefit from historical precedent. Canada is the only country to have won a curling medal at every Olympic Winter Games since the sport was officially added to the Olympic program in 1998. Vancouver should be no different.