Candice Ward/COC
Candice Ward/COC

Day 4 at Santiago 2023: Mac Neil closes in on history, Dolci strikes gold again

It was another action-packed day at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile as Team Canada athletes added another 18 medals to the team total.

Here are some of the top stories:

Swimming: Mac Neil swims to fourth gold in Santiago

Maggie Mac Neil is still at it, bringing home her fourth gold medal of these Games! This time she shared the top step of the podium in the 50m freestyle with American Gabi Albiero after both athletes touched with the exact same time of 24.84. They were joined by another American, Catie De Loof, in the bronze medal position.

Mac Neil says she was happy to come away with the win, given that she’s still relatively new to swimming freestyle at the international level and considers the 50m one of her weaker distances. But having an enthusiastic crowd behind her certainly helped.

“The crowd’s been amazing and that was, unfortunately, something we were lacking in Tokyo,” said Mac Neil. “Anytime you can get that atmosphere going it really pumps you up.” Mac Neil is just the fourth Canadian athlete to ever win four gold medals at one Pan Am Games.

Julie Brousseau also snagged a gold medal in the women’s 400m individual medley with a time of 4:43.76. She was followed by American Lucerne Bell and Brazilian Gabrielle Roncatto. On the men’s side, Collyn Gagne took silver in the 400m IM with a time of 4:17.05, behind Jay Litherland of the United States and ahead of Brandonn Almeida of Brazil.

“It feels pretty good to get my first international medal!” Gagne said. “The strategy was swimming to my strengths and not trying to race the competition so much as swimming my own race and seeing how it unfolded and I think I did that well.”

The Canadian women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team consisting of Mary-Sophie Harvey, Julie Brousseau, Brooklyn Douthwright and Katerine Savard swam to bronze with a time of 7:56.98. Team USA won gold followed by Team Brazil. Emma O’Croinin and Sydney Pickrem will also receive medals for swimming in the preliminary heat.

The Canadian men responded with a bronze of their own in the 4x200m freestyle relay. Jeremy Bagshaw, Finlay Knox, Alex Axon and Javier Acevedo teamed up to swim 7:14.76, finishing behind the Brazilian team and the American team. Blake Tierney, Adam Wu and Raben Dommann also represented Team Canada in the preliminary heat.

Artistic Gymnastics: Banner day for Dolci, Canada goes 1-2 on pommel horse

Felix Dolci has done it again! Yesterday, Dolci became the first Canadian man to win the Pan Am Games all-around title in 60 years. Today, the 21-year-old returned to secure another gold medal for Canada, this time in floor exercise. This marks the first time a Canadian man has won the Pan Am Games title on floor exercise in 20 years.

Dolci had the second highest difficulty score in the event, which combined with strong execution earned him a total score of 14.233. He is joined on the podium by Arthur Mariano of Brazil and Juan Larrahondo of Colombia.

“Today I felt really confident on floor, I knew I had an opportunity going for the gold and that’s exactly what I did,” Dolci said post-competition.

He carried that confidence right over to the apparatus final for the rings later in the day, claiming his fourth medal of the Games, this time a bronze. Dolci’s score of 13.800 on rings placed him behind gold medallist Donnell Whittenburg of the United States and Daniel Villafane of Argentina.

“The competition was really tight. We had some really good contenders here today and I just wanted to squeeze onto the podium. I qualified third and I knew I had a really good performance on qualification day, so I just wanted to reproduce that today,” Dolci said.

Two other members of the silver medal-winning men’s team stood side-by-side on another podium. Zachary Clay, a 10-year veteran of the national team, and Jayson Rampersad went 1-2 in the men’s pommel horse final. While Rampersad had the higher difficulty score, Clay had the better execution, earning a total of 14.400, edging out his teammate for gold by just 0.067.

“I actually just found out I’m the first Canadian to ever win gold [on pommel horse] at the Pan Am Games, which is amazing. The last medal on pommel horse was actually my coach when he used to compete. So, this means a lot,” said Clay. His coach, Richard Ikeda, won bronze at the 1995 edition of the Games.

Water Ski/Wakeboard: Three more medals for Canada

After winning two medals yesterday, Dorien Llewellyn hit the water with a vengeance today, claiming top spot in the men’s overall event, which combines slalom, jump, and tricks. He scored 2970.59 to stand atop the podium with silver medallist Tobias Giorgis of Argentina and Martin Labra Thiermann of Chile in the bronze medal spot.

Llewellyn is a repeat champion, having won the event at Lima 2019. “Each medal has its own story,” Llewellyn said after his final run. “The last one was special because it was my first…but this one, coming off of this injury, it’s a cool way to end the season.” Llewellyn was injured in a training crash in June and only began skiing again in September.

“Today I told my dad [seven-time Pan Am Games champion Jaret Llewellyn] that the whole last four months were hitting me, how long of a process it’s been, and I just wanted to end it on a really positive note,” he added.

Paige Rini also added to her medal haul with a silver in the women’s overall event. Rini scored a total of 2623.14 points, placing her just 10 points back of American legend Regina Jaquess, who has won medals at six editions of the Pan Am Games. Rini had earned two bronze medals during yesterday’s slalom and jump events.

“It feels awesome. I was really close to the gold, so I’m a little disappointed. We all want more for ourselves. But I’m still really proud of myself for pushing through. This is not an easy three days, it’s a lot of skiing — my body’s starting to give up on me!” Rini said with a chuckle.

Hunter Smith also added to the medal count with a wakeboard silver. Smith scored 82.67, finishing behind Kai Ditsch of Argentina and ahead of Daniel Johnson of the USA.

“It’s super emotional,” Smith said post-competition. “This was my goal — to get here and get on to the podium. After my run, the judges took about an hour to decide. I was more stressed during that hour than I was before I rode. I’m just unbelievably happy to get the silver.”

Rowing: Women’s eight speeds to gold

Team Canada took gold in the women’s eight with a decisive victory to start off the country’s medal count for Day 4. The Canadians finished in 6:10.70, almost three-and-a-half seconds ahead of the American boat. Host nation Chile rounded out the podium. This is the first time the event has been contested at the Pan Am Games, making Canada the inaugural gold medallists.

The golden crew consisted of Kendra Hartley, Olivia McMurray, Alizée Brien, Parker Illingworth, Abby Speirs, Shaye De Paiva, Abby Dent and Leia Till, coxed by Olympic gold medallist, Kristen Kit. The boat was full of Santiago medallists, after Hartley, Illingworth, Brien and De Paiva took bronze yesterday in the quadruple sculls and Dent and McMurray had won silver in the coxless pair.

“I never actually thought I would have a chance to race at the Pan Am Games — and we won!” said coxswain Kit post-race. “For me, this is going to be in my memory forever and mostly in my heart forever. And getting to work with such an amazing group of women that are so talented and so positive is something that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

Diving: Gold again for Ware

Pamela Ware is golden again, this time on the 3m springboard, topping the podium with a score of 342.75. She was followed by Arantxa Chavez of Mexico (336.85) and Krysta Palmer of the USA (323.85).

Ware is quite used to the top step of the Pan Am podium. Just days ago she took the title in the women’s 1m springboard, with teammate Mia Vallée in the silver medal position. Ware won 3m bronze at the World Aquatics Championships this summer, returning to the world podium in the event for the first time in a decade.

“My confidence was shot down a little after the prelims, but I took a break and reframed and came back really strong for the final, so I’m very proud of what I did today,” Ware said, “And I have synchro tomorrow, so hopefully we get another gold!”

Track Cycling: Team Canada sprints to the podium

At the velodrome, Team Canada sprinted to gold in the men’s team sprint event, defeating Colombia in the head-to-head showdown by 0.025 of a second. Racing for Canada was Tyler Rorke, Nick Wammes and James Hedgcock, who clocked 43.396 seconds.

“It seems like whenever we race together, we keep getting faster and better as a team,” Wammes said. “We matched our best time all season and we’re in a heavily trained state, so we’re getting stronger and looking forward to next season. The Olympics are in 10 months!”

Emy Savard, Sarah Orban and Jackie Boyle followed up with a bronze medal in the women’s team sprint event with a time of 48.498. They also had to defeat Colombia in the head-to-head race.

Sport Climbing: Yip climbs her way to bronze

Alannah Yip claims the bronze medal in women’s boulder and lead. She scored 64.7 in the boulder event and 64 in the lead event for a cumulative score of 128.7. The Tokyo 2020 Olympian was bested by Natalia Grossman with 172.4 points and Brooke Raboutou with 165.4 points, both of the United States.

With sport climbing making its Pan Am Games debut in Santiago, Yip is the first Canadian ever to achieve a medal in the sport.

Racquetball: Silver for men’s doubles

Coby Iwaasa and Samuel Murray had a chance to win Canada’s first ever Pan Am Games gold in racquetball. They took the opening game of the men’s doubles final against Mexico’s Rodrigo Montoya and Javier Mar, 11-6. But then the Mexicans stormed back to win three straight games (7-11, 10-12, 10-12), leaving the Canadians with the silver.

This is Iwaasa’s second career Pan Am Games medal. He was a member of the men’s bronze medal-winning team at Toronto 2015.

Badminton: Team Canada in the hunt for four gold medals

Canada will have four chances for gold in badminton after some huge semifinal victories.

That includes Brian Yang in men’s singles, Nyl Yakura and Adam Dong in men’s doubles, Ty Lindeman and Josephine Wu in mixed doubles, and Catherine Choi and Wu in women’s doubles.

Wu summed up the expectations for her and her teammates in Santiago: “We’re here to win.”

Rachel Chan will be heading home with a bronze medal in women’s singles after losing her semifinal to Beiwen Zhang of the USA.

“It’s definitely still a big achievement since this is my first Pan Am Games,” Chan said post-match, “but if there’s another chance, I’ll definitely be trying to go for the gold.”

Boxing: Three Canadians advance to semifinals

Canadian boxers Tammara Thibeault (75kg), Charlie Cavanagh (66kg), and McKenzie Wright (50kg) won their quarterfinal bouts today and will move on to the semifinals.

This means that all three women are guaranteed a medal, as anyone eliminated in the semis will end up with bronze. If they advance to the final, that will secure their spots at Paris 2024.

Cavanagh was itching to get into the ring after being out of Canada for over a month thanks to a pre-competition training camp and hadn’t stepped into the ring to fight until Pan Ams. She defeated Lucia Perez of Argentina.

“It felt amazing,” Cavanagh said. “Just hearing everyone saying your name, the music and the lights — it really just creates an atmosphere that’s electric.”

Thibeault met Maryelis Yriza Burgillos of Venezuela in the quarterfinals. Despite notching another win, Thibeault has her eyes set on what can be improved for the semis.

“I wasn’t totally satisfied with my performance. I’m happy I got the job done and won, but it’s more than that to me, so hopefully Thursday’s better,” Thibeault said.

Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes carry the Canadian flag in front of their teammates

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