Canada dominates opening night on the track at TO2015

Matt Hughes and Alex Genest finished 1-2 in steeplechase, then Mo Ahmed took the Americas to task in the 10,000-metre. All three men thrilled the largely Canadian crowd at Toronto 2015 on the first day of stadium events in athletics.

Two days after race walkers Evan Dunfee and Inaki Gomez gave the country a 1-2 result on the streets of Toronto, Hughes and Genest brought the show to the track at York University, dominating the men’s 3000m steeplechase.

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Matt Hughes and Alex Genest embrace after finishing 1-2 in Pan Am Games steeplechase on July 21, 2015.

Matt Hughes and Alex Genest embrace after finishing 1-2 in Pan Am Games steeplechase on July 21, 2015.

Hughes – who stayed near the front for most of the race – took the lead with two laps to go from American Cory Leslie and only looked back once on the home stretch of the final lap to see if he had any more work to do. What he saw instead was teammate Genest in second place, having overtaken Leslie near the final water hazard.

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« We had a couple of game plans depending on how the race played out, » Hughes said of the decision to go early. « It just started bunching up with three laps to go. I just didn’t want to get caught up with that. »

« I made a similar move in the national championships a few weeks ago, so I was confident in that move. I was hoping that Alex knew when I was going to go. »

Matt Hughes won gold while teammate Alex Genest took silver in the men's 3000m steeplechase.

Matt Hughes won gold while teammate Alex Genest took silver in men’s 3000m steeplechase.

Genest picked up on Hughes’ cue, Leslie wasn’t going to make it easy for him. The Canadian chased down his U.S. rival from a bronze medal position and overtook him around the last bend. It obviously meant a lot to the silver medallist.

« On the start line, I see my two sons and wife in the crowd, I became really emotional. I just went for it, maybe not the best the race of my life, but definitely one of the good ones and in my memory it will stay forever, » Genest said.

Hughes’ time was 8:32.18, as he eased toward the finish, Genest was just 1.65 seconds behind rushing to cross the line ahead of Leslie in the bronze medal position (8:36.83).

Mo Ahmed wraps himself in the maple leaf after winning the men's 10,000m at the Pan Am Games on July 21, 2015.

Mo Ahmed wraps himself in the maple leaf after winning the men’s 10,000m at the Pan Am Games on July 21, 2015.

Then Ahmed took the track in the men’s 10,000m in a field where six runners broke from the pack and ran together for much of the race.

« It was very tough, as I expected, » Ahmed said. « To come out on top in front of the home crowd is unbelievable. »

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Brazil’s Giovani Dos Santos tried to break away from the group of six with four laps to go and was reeled in by the pack quite quickly. The Brazilian darted ahead again with two laps remaining but this time it was Ahmed who put him in his place and ran the penultimate lap from the front.

Mo Ahmed finishes first at the Pan Am Games in men's 10,000m on July 21, 2015.

Mo Ahmed finishes first at the Pan Am Games in men’s 10,000m on July 21, 2015.

Still leading 100 metres into the bell lap, Aron Rono of the United States pushed ahead of Ahmed. The Canadian though, had plenty in reserve, kicking the last 200 metres with unmatched speed to win the gold in 28:49.96. Rono’s silver medal time was 28:50.83, while Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico (28:51.57) won the hard-fought bronze in an exciting finish that could’ve gone various ways.

« It was my first time experiencing something like this, being on the podium. Now that I have experienced the feeling of being on the podium, I hope to keep experiencing it. »

Nikkita Holder celebrates at the Pan Am Games, where she won bronze in the women's 100m hurdles on July 21, 2015.

Nikkita Holder celebrates at the Pan Am Games, where she won bronze in the women’s 100m hurdles on July 21, 2015.

The third medal on the track on Tuesday night for Canada came from Nikkita Holder in the women’s 100m hurdles, finishing behind a USA 1-2 of Queen Harrison (12.52 – Pan Am record) and Tenaya Jones (12.84), the latter beating Holder (12.85) in a photo finish.

Canada has now won 10 medals in athletics, five of which are gold. In field events on Tuesday, Team Canada picked up gold in women’s javelin and men’s pole vault; silver in men’s shot put; and a bronze in women’s hammer throw.