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In the world of Olympic sport, where stunning, untimely stumbles over an early hurdle or podium misses by the length of a fingernail can quickly derail medal forecasts, it pays to have a sense of humour.

So when Own the Podium boss Alex Baumann is asked one year out from the London 2012 Games whether he still thinks Canada is on track for its oft-stated target of a top 12 finish in the overall medal count, he laughs and says "well, I'm really hoping top three."

As the upper-crust English might say, "not bloody likely." Not with the powerful U.S., China, Russia, Germany and the moneyflush, home-country Brits forecast to finish one through five.

Baumann, in an interview from his Ottawa office on Tuesday, said OTP and the Canadian Olympic Committee will get a better indication of where the country stands after all of this year's world championships are finished, most notably the current swimming worlds in Shanghai and the track and field worlds next month in Korea.

"If we're going to get to the top 12, if you look historically at the last four Olympics, it took in the 22-26 [medals] range, so we have some work to do," said Baumann, who watched Canada finish tied for 14th in Beijing in 2008 with 18 medals - three gold, nine silver and six bronze - with an additional 10 fourth-place finishes. "It would be great if we could convert some of those fourth-and fifth-place finishes into podium spots."

He says there are some encouraging signs from the likes of shot putter Dylan Armstrong, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the world; triathlete Paula Findlay, who has four prestigious International Triathlon Union world championship series wins in the last calendar year; track cyclist Tara Whitten, a World Cup overall champion; and three-time world amateur boxing champion Mary Spencer.

As OTP did for the 2010 Winter Olympics, where Canada set a record with 14 home country gold medals, the organization is continuing to target resources to sports and athletes where there is definite medal potential. It may well mean Canada sends less than the 322 athletes it sent to Beijing, but Baumann says a more focused approach is the way to go. "We just don't have enough resources to do everything. It has to be focused if you want to make a difference. I would not veer away from a prioritized and targeted approach. The benefit of it, is that it brings a proper accountability for performances."

But as good as some individuals have been this year, there have been some discouraging results in team sports. With Canada looking for its first team-sport Olympic medal since a basketball silver in 1936, OTP targeted women's soccer, water polo and field hockey for extra resources. But the soccer team, ranked No. 6 in the world, tumbled ingloriously out of the recent World Cup, leading to the resignation of the entire coaching staff.

Source: Gary Kingston, Postmedia News

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