Will momentum that carried Team Canada in Sochi last through 2018?
Canada goalie Carey Price lies on the ice with his team's trophy after beating Sweden 3-0 in the men's ice hockey gold medal game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 24, 2014 9:35AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Canada's Olympic team in Sochi benefited from the afterburn of hosting the previous Winter Games in 2010.
It's a trend, although not a given, that the home country of an Olympic Games can parlay the momentum for another quadrennial or two because of a high-revving sports system.
China was second with 100 medals at the Summer Games in Beijing in 2008 and again second with 88 in London in 2012, for example.
The United States hasn't finished out of the top three countries in the Winter Games overall medal count since hosting in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Australia hit a high of 50 medals in the 2004 Summer Games after Sydney had them four years earlier, but dropped to 35 in London.
Canada won 25 medals in Sochi after a total of 26 in Vancouver in 2010.
The Canadian team finished third overall medals and first in gold four years ago. In Sochi, the final tally was good for fourth overall and third in gold.
Hosting a Winter Games made Canada a world winter sport power, but can it last to 2018, 2022 and 2026?
"I think it's sustainable," said Steve Podborski, Canada's chef de mission in Sochi. "It's really, really fun to be good at something."
It also really, really expensive to be good at Olympic sports. Canada set a Winter Games record for gold medals with 14 in 2010.
Recognizing the country's sport euphoria coming out of 2010, the federal government hasn't just maintained, but has augmented sport funding. The Canadian Olympic Committee has signed several large corporate sponsorship deals since 2010.
Canada's first winter sport institute -- modelled on the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra -- is now fully operational in Calgary. The $204-million institute provides all service and training facilities under one roof.
But governments change, financial priorities change and the memory of those heady moments when people cheered in the streets for the home team fades over time.
Subsequent host countries throw incredible resources into their athletes who rise up and take medals off the table.
"Other countries are seeing the benefits of having great performance," said Caroline Assalian, the COC's chief sport officer. "As long as it's important for us as Canadians, it will continue to be for the private sector and for government as well."
Thanks to a strong performance in Sochi, including another pair of hockey gold medals, Canada should be able to sustain the taxpayer and corporate goodwill from 2010 through to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But more memorable performances will be required to maintain both into the next decade. South Korea poses similar challenges to performance as Russia did because of time zone, travel, food and culture.
Russia has joined the United States, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany as Canada's rivals. The Russians had a miserable 2010 with just 15 medals, but more than doubled its output as the host team in Sochi to 33.
Canada's sport leaders departed Sochi believing the goal of finishing first overall in the medal count is achievable at future Winter Games.
"I think, I don't know, but I think our government, our corporations and our people will continue to support our nation in its quest to be the best in the world," Podborski said.
Hosting another Olympic Games would provide another jolt of adrenaline to Canada's sport system. COC president Marcel Aubut said Sunday he hopes before his term expires in 2017 that a Canadian city bids for another Olympic Games -- winter or summer.