Weekend Roundup: Trophies for Fernandez & Dabrowski, return to top of podium for Pickrem
It was a successful weekend for Team Canada athletes, headlined by big wins on the tennis courts in Hong Kong and Zhengzhou by Leylah Fernandez and Gaby Dabrowski. Meanwhile, Sydney Pickrem was back in golden form as Canadian swimmers won six medals at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup in Athens and triathlete Charles Paquet enjoyed a career breakthrough moment in Brazil.
Here’s what you need to know:
Tennis: Leylah Fernandez claims first title of season; Dabrowski nabs second doubles title
Leylah Fernandez won her third career WTA singles title on Sunday as she defeated Czech player Katerina Siniakova 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the 250-level Hong Kong Open. The tournament victory in Hong Kong is the first for the 21-year-old Canadian since she won her second straight trophy in Monterrey in March 2022. It was the first singles final she had played in this year.
Tied at 4-4 in the final set, Fernandez made the decisive break to lead 5-4, then served out the win, with the match concluding in 2 hours and 49 minutes. The win bumped her up 17 spots in the WTA rankings to No. 43.
Another Canadian who claimed a tennis title on Sunday was Gaby Dabrowski, who won the WTA 500-level Zhengzhou Open with partner Erin Routliffe, who represents New Zealand. It is their second doubles title since teaming up in August. They won the U.S Open in early September as Dabrowski became the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam women’s doubles trophy.
The Canadian/Kiwi duo were in the final against Shuko Aoyama and Eno Shibahara of Japan. They dropped just 10 points on their serve and saved five of six break points while breaking four times in a 6-2, 6-4 win.
Swimming: Pickrem, Masse, Wilm win big at World Cup
Pickrem swam to the gold medal in the women’s 200m individual medley, an event in which she was world championship bronze medallist in 2019. Her time of 2:09.67 gave her the victory by 1.48 seconds ahead of American Torri Huske. Australian star Kaylee McKeown took the bronze.
Last week, Pickrem claimed silver in the 200m IM at the first leg of the World Cup in Berlin. That was her first competition in about five months. The 26-year-old withdrew from this summer’s World Aquatics Championships for personal reasons. She elaborated about recent mental health challenges in a post-race interview in Athens.
“Two months ago, I had crippling anxiety and depression. I was not able to do what I loved. To be in this position, just enjoy racing with these girls and just getting back to having fun and enjoying what I love to do. I am very grateful to be here, and I just try to do the best I can every day,” said Pickrem, who will now join Team Canada at the Santiago 2023 Pan Am Games.
Meanwhile, Masse and Wilm were all over the backstroke podiums. On Friday, Wilm edged out Masse by a 0.01 of a second for the silver medal in the 50m backstroke. On Saturday, the swapped spots as Masse took the silver in the 100m backstroke and Wilm settled for bronze. Masse closed out the weekend with her third podium finish, earning the bronze in the 200m backstroke. The aforementioned McKeown won gold in all three of those races.
Maggie Mac Neil had some near-podium finishes before she also flies off to Santiago for the Pan Am Games. She finished fourth in both the 100m butterfly and 50m backstroke.
Beach Volleyball: Melissa & Brandie finish fifth at world championships
Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson saw their run at the Beach Volleyball World Championships end earlier than they hoped. On Friday, they fell to Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy in the quarterfinals.
Entering the tournament as the fourth-ranked duo, the Canadians won five straight matches without dropping a set. But they could not push past the tough Australian challenge, despite coming close in both sets. Mariafe and Clancy swept Melissa and Brandie 22-20, 21-16.
The pair had built up a strong bit of momentum, going 3-0 in pool play before eliminating Finland’s Niina Ahtiainen and Taru Lahti-Liukkonen 21-17, 21-17 in the Round of 32. Their final win came with a 21-14, 21-11 victory over Switzerland’s Esmée Bobner and Zoé Vergé-Dépré in the Round of 16, earning them a spot in Friday’s quarterfinal.
The women’s gold medal was won by Americans Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng, who were the third seeds. That secured Olympic quota spots for Paris 2024. Seventeen more teams will earn their Olympic qualification via the Olympic Ranking list in early June 2024.
Triathlon: First World Cup podium for Paquet
Charles Paquet earned his first career World Triathlon Cup medal when he finished third in Brasilia, Brazil on Sunday. Paquet completed the 1500m swim, 40km bike leg, and 10km run in a total time of 1 hour 48 minutes and 36 seconds, which saw him cross the finish line 35 seconds after the winner, Miguel Hildalgo of Brazil, who thrilled the home crowd. Paquet is Canada’s number two man in the world rankings behind Tyler Mislawchuk and this result will help him maintain his momentum towards Olympic qualification.
“I had a really good day to be honest,” said Paquet. “I impressed myself with the swim and somehow ended up in the first five, I don’t know how, and then the bike was really windy so we were either really slow or really fast, no one really on it, then just running as fast as I can and those guys really made me push and I just managed to keep it going to the end. I felt the heat a lot like everyone, maybe my getting here early and getting used to the heat was what worked well for me.”
Emy Legault finished 10th in the women’s race.