VANCOUVER - Canada won't own the podium at the Vancouver Games after all.
With seven days of competition remaining, the Canadian Olympic Committee raised the white flag Monday on the host team's goal of finishing first overall in the medal count.
"We are going to be short of our goal," CEO Chris Rudge said at the team's daily news briefing.
Canada entered Monday with nine medals (4-4-1), tied for fourth with South Korea, and far behind the U.S. at 24. Germany was second with 17, followed by Norway with 12.
"We'd be living in a fool's paradise if we said we were going to catch the Americans and win," Rudge said. "We're not throwing in the towel. You never do that when you are in the middle of a fight, but it's difficult. They are way out ahead at this point and it would be unrealistic to state that we are going to catch them."
It was like an elephant left the room when Rudge acknowledged Canada wasn't going to finish first at these Games. That atmosphere contrasted starkly with the previous day's tense briefing when defensive Canadian officials maintained Canada could still finish first overall.
The Canadian Olympic Committee, the Vancouver organizing committee and Canada's sport federations established the program Own The Podium five years ago with the goal of winning more medals than any other country in 2010. It was an ambitious plan, but the feeling was that the Canadian team needed to aim high and capture the imagination of the Canadian public.
That Canadian public invested heavily in the program. Of the $117 million invested in athletes, $66 million of it was taxpayer dollars.
The turning point for Canada was Sunday, when the potential for three medals out of the 1,500 metres in women's long-track speedskating and men's ski cross produced a single silver.
"It was a potential multiple-medal day where we didn't get multiple medals," Rudge said. "We've had a number of those and those are disappointing. Those are the ones that pop up the total."
Canada has averaged a medal per day at these Games while the Americans were picking up almost three a day.
Rudge didn't set a new goal for Canada on Monday. Canada won a record 24 medals and finished third overall in the medal count four years ago in Turin, Italy.
"What's important that every athlete who has a chance to medal, does so," Rudge said. "We'll quantify the success of the program in terms of total medals after the Games were over.
"Our goal is to maximize the opportunities we still have and make sure we continue to give to those athletes still competing the opportunity to reach the podium."