By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

March 1 - Canada's athletes, still celebrating finishing top of the medals table at the Winter Olympics here, will find out on Thursday how much their funding for London 2012 and Sochi 2014 will be cut by the Government.

Canada set a record gold medals won at a Winter Olympics, which finished last night with 14, leaving the home team with a total 26 to finish ahead of the United States and Germany.

The success was due to Own The Podium (OTP), a comprehensive plan to put Canadians on the podium at Vancouver 2010.

For the first time in the country's history, sports were held accountable for the funding they received.

Athletes who won medals in World Cup and World Championships got the money.

OTP's $117 million (£75 million) budget came mostly from the Federal Government and the Vancouver organising committee (VANOC), with the British Columbia Government, Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) contributing some money.

All those sources of funding stopped or will be cut dramatically with the conclusion of the Games, with the exception of Federal Government that is now set to be drastically reduced.

Jon Montgomery (pictured), one of the stars of the Games after winning the bob skeleton, spoke for many athletes when he said he feared that the tap would now be turned off and that Canada's results would dip again ahead of the next Winter Olympics in Sochi in four years.

He said: "There's a level of concern that we won't have the same level of support financially."

Over the last five years OTP had an average of $23.4 million (£14.9 million) per year to spend on its winter athletes.

All that is currently guaranteed is $11 million (£7 million) per year from the Federal Government, which is almost a 60 per cent reduction.

Roger Jackson, the head of OTP, said:  "That's the only money today on the table.

"I hope the programme continues for another four years at the level we've been able to develop it because I know we can go beyond the success that we will have. I know we can do far more with another four years to go."

Canadian taxpayers put $66 million (£42 million) into OTP.

VANOC covered most of the rest with corporate sponsorships for the Games.

British Columbia's Government contributed $5 million (£3 million) and the COC and CPC added smaller amounts to the coffers.

Canada's summer sport programme, which was named Road To Excellence heading into the 2008 Beijing Games, has since been absorbed under Own The Podium.

With more athletes in more sports, the Federal Government has committed to $36 million (£23 million) per year to the summer sports heading into the 2012 Games in London.

OTP and the COC have asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper for $22 million (£14 million) in replacement funding for 2010-2011 in the federal budget to be released Thursday in Ottawa.

Harper said: "As you know, our Government has supported world-class athletics very generously.

"We've not only supported the world-class athletics through the tax credit for kids sports, we've tried to encourage participation in sports at all levels.

"This is a basic philosophy of our Government and things will be looking to continue into the future."

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell intends for the province to continue supporting OTP with details to be announced at a later date.

He said: "I can tell you that I've talked with other provincial Premiers.

"They too believe we should be supporting them with the Own the Podium program in partnership with the Federal Government and you know, what better result can you expect than 14 gold medals which set a world record for gold medals at an Olympic Games?"

Sports Minister Gary Lunn appointed a panel of sport experts last year to study Canada's sport system beyond 2010.

The group, that included Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc, panel made their recommendations to Lunn in December.

The report will determine the role of OTP after the Games, but Lunn will release the report until after the conclusion of the Paralympic Games in March.

Jackson said: “It would be a shame if this program was not continued with the same enthusiasm we've seen.

"It affects both winter sport and summer sport."

Michael Chambers, the outgoing president of the COC, now hopes that Canada's success here will continue into London 2012.

The team had already been set the target of finishing among the top 12 nations there.

Chambers said: "We're going to London hoping and wishing and preparing that our team finish in the top 12 countries in terms of total medals at those Games, whatever that total may be.

"It's probably in the high teens, low 20s, but what the actual number is depends on the spread of medals at the Games.

"We look at rank because we want to know where we are in relation to our competition."

At the 2008 Beijing Games, Canada won 18 medals, including six gold, finishing 14th overall.

In 2004 in Athens, Canada won 12 medals, including three gold, and Sydney 2000 produced 14 medals, including three gold.

Chambers claimed Canada would like to match its performance at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, when Canadian athletes won 22 medals, including three gold, with Donovan Baily (pictured) setting a world record to claim victory in the 100 metres.

He said: "We'd like to get back to about where we were in Atlanta.

"That's the place we'd like to be in London from whichever mix of sports.

"And that, we believe, would have us rank in the top-12 countries participating in London."

Canada's most successful Summer Games were in Los Angeles in 1984, but those Olympics were boycotted by the Soviet Union and its allies.

Canada ranked sixth in gold and won 44 medals, made up of 10 gold, 18 silver and 16 bronze.

Marcel Aubut, the incoming president of the COC, said these Games in Vancouver have given Canadian athletes "an incredible boost" and created a new culture of achievement for the country at the Olympics.

He said: It could change along the way but the culture now is to go for the podium and do our best.

"The athletes believe there is an environment and the tools for them to realise their dream and be the best.

"It's all that culture that we really wanted to improve based on the Games here - Summer and Winter.

"What happened in Vancouver will give an incredible boost to summer athletes."

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