Let's hear it for the girls

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Women once again owning the podium for Canada

It's easy to see who wears the snow pants in this Olympic family. As well as the medals. They would be Jenn, Kaillie, Heather, Helen, Shelley-Ann, Ashleigh, Tessa, Maelle, Christine, Kristina, Clara, Marianne, Jessica, Karyna, Tania, Shannon, Meghan, Carla, Becky, Colleen, Rebecca, Cherie, Gillian, Meaghan, Caroline, Jayna, Jennifer, Catherine, Haley, Hayley, Tessa, Sarah, Gina, Marie-Philip, Charline and Kim.

Your dominant females, Canada. Your better halves, gentlemen.

They are Canadian, hear them roar the national anthem from the steps of a podium built by men, perhaps, but ruled by women. Kind of like life in a suburban bungalow. Our wintry women have won 13 of this country's 17 medals outright - one is shared by ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir - carrying on a trend established in Turin four years ago when the score was 16-8 for the fairer sex.

Two of Canada's medals at these Games came in one event Wednesday night, when this country's women's bobsledders finished one-two in the doubles event. Kaillie Humphries (left) piloted the gold-medal sled, with Heather Moyse (right) on the brakes. Photo

Vancouver -

It's easy to see who wears the snow pants in this Olympic family. As well as the medals. They would be Jenn, Kaillie, Heather, Helen, Shelley-Ann, Ashleigh, Tessa, Maelle, Christine, Kristina, Clara, Marianne, Jessica, Karyna, Tania, Shannon, Meghan, Carla, Becky, Colleen, Rebecca, Cherie, Gillian, Meaghan, Caroline, Jayna, Jennifer, Catherine, Haley, Hayley, Tessa, Sarah, Gina, Marie-Philip, Charline and Kim.



Your dominant females, Canada. Your better halves, gentlemen.



They are Canadian, hear them roar the national anthem from the steps of a podium built by men, perhaps, but ruled by women. Kind of like life in a suburban bungalow. Our wintry women have won 13 of this country's 17 medals outright - one is shared by ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir - carrying on a trend established in Turin four years ago when the score was 16-8 for the fairer sex.



Though Germany's medal count favours women here as well by a 16-8 count, almost every other nation near the top of the medal standings are led by men. They're on top in the United States (19-10), Norway (13-6), Korea (7-3), Austria (6-3), Switzerland (7-1) and Russia (9-3).



What does that say about the state of women's winter sport in Canada?



"What doesn't it say?" countered bobsledder Heather Moyse.



Well, sheer numbers don't exactly tell the whole story. When the female frenzy was examined in Turin it was suggested by the Canadian Olympic Committee's director of international performance Alex Gardiner that there were three possible explanations. He thought it might only be cyclical or an anomaly brought about by the staggering impact of speedskater Cindy Klassen, who won five medals, almost half the difference between the Canadian sexes in Italy.



But the more thought he gave it, the more he sensed a commitment to gender equity in Canadian sport funding and opportunity was manifesting itself in a sudden and massive tipping of the scales. In the five Winter Olympics preceding Turin, Canadian women led the medal parade by the narrowest of margins possible, 27-26, with four more won by mixed entries in figure skating.



"Since the 1980s, we've been opening more doors for women to succeed," Gardiner said in Turin.



"The resources are equal to men. I'm a big believer in what sport in Canada has done for equal opportunity and access."



Now, that only makes sense in concert with another tenet of sport, that due to sheer numbers it is far tougher to rise to the top as a male than it is as a female. Otherwise, if funding and opportunity and all else are equals, it would surely have led to a more balanced medal count between the sexes in Canada.



Ipso facto, if Canada has actually taken the global lead in availing women of funds and opportunity, and properly funded women can rise through the ranks quicker than properly funded men, the female phenomenon as we know it now can occur. Speedskater Clara Hughes, the most decorated Olympian in Canada, got out in front on that topic Thursday.



"I hate to say this as a female, but there is a lot more depth in men's sport," she said. "It takes a lot more resources to be able to develop men. In my sport, speedskating and also in cycling, when you get a top-10 result as a male, it's something out of this world coming from North America.



"There is so much depth especially in the endurance sports. It takes more time. It takes more resources. I'm not saying it's easier to win as a female, but in terms of depth it's different.



"It doesn't run as deep. I have won and it is possible, but I do think it takes more time and more resources for the men and the guys have shown that it is possible. I'm not saying it's easy, so don't get me wrong, because it's so hard. Sport at this level is unfathomably hard. But it's different."



The only men to have won their own medals are Alexandre Bilodeau, Mike Robertson and Jon Montgomery. They are vastly outnumbered at this moment, but could be joined in the coming days by hockey players, curlers, short-track speedskaters, snowboarders and bobsledders. But the final number will still favour our women, just as it did four years ago.

Organizations: Canadian Olympic Committee

Geographic location: Canada, Turin, Vancouver Germany United States Norway Korea Austria Switzerland Russia Italy North America

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  • Laura
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    It seems likely to me that the reason behind the difference is that Canada is funding and supporting its male and female athletes equally, and other countries are not.

    And of course some of it is probably just which athletes are particularly strong at a particular time.

    Go Canada, for supporting your female athletes, and go Canada's athletes for such a great showing!

  • Laura
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    It seems likely to me that the reason behind the difference is that Canada is funding and supporting its male and female athletes equally, and other countries are not.

    And of course some of it is probably just which athletes are particularly strong at a particular time.

    Go Canada, for supporting your female athletes, and go Canada's athletes for such a great showing!