Darren Calabrese/COC
Darren Calabrese/COC

Day 6 at Santiago 2023: Thibeault, Sanford book Olympic tickets in boxing

Day 6 at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games saw Team Canada clinch Olympic qualification in three events for Paris 2024.

There were also medals claimed in boxing, shooting, racquetball, and modern pentathlon, plus one guaranteed in beach volleyball by the team’s opening ceremony flag bearers.

Here are today’s top stories:

Boxing: Thibeault and Sanford earn Olympic qualification

Tammara Thibeault started things off on the right foot for Team Canada this morning with a semifinal win over Vanessa Ortiz of Mexico in the women’s 75kg class. This victory secures Thibeault not only a spot in tomorrow’s gold medal bout, but also her place at next summer’s Olympic Games.

« I’m really happy to be here and I’m really happy that I finally punched my ticket to Paris, » Thibeault said post-fight. « It’s been a long year and we’ve worked so hard for this, so a lot of pressure has been relieved and tomorrow [in the final] I can just have fun. »

Her opponent for the gold medal will be Panama’s Atheyna Bylon, who Thibeault defeated to win gold in the final of the 2022 World Championships.

Wyatt Sanford closed out the day for Team Canada’s boxing contingent the same way it began, winning his semifinal bout and securing his ticket to Paris 2024 in the men’s 63.5kg class. Though four of the five judges gave the first round to his Brazilian opponent Yuri Falcao dos Reis, they all agreed that Sanford was the stronger boxer in the second and third rounds, giving him the victory on points.

« I’m coming home to Kennetcook (Nova Scotia). I will have that ticket, and I will have that medal, and I will be coming down to the little local coffee shop. It’s me in the ring, but it’s for the whole community. Without my hometown, I wouldn’t be where I’m at and I always fight with them on my side, » Sanford said afterwards.

Four Canadian boxers were not as successful in their semifinal fights and will head home with bronze medals. They also just miss out on Olympic qualification.

Mckenzie Wright lost 5-0 to Jennifer Lozano of the USA in women’s 50kg semifinals, while Charlie Cavanagh, world silver medallist in 2022, also goes home with bronze after her 5-0 loss to another American, Morelle McCane, in the women’s 66kg semis.

« [The Pan Am Games] has been one of the most amazing and exciting experiences of my life, regarding sport and outside of sport. The whole thing has been incredible, » Cavanagh said. « The biggest takeaway from it for me is my growth as an athlete. I feel like I’m a completely different athlete than I was even one month ago. »

While things might not have gone the way he wanted them to, Bryan Colwell is still headed home with a bronze medal in the men’s 92kg weight class. After suffering a cut to the head in his last match, Colwell was unable to compete in his semifinal. Junior Petanqui will also return home with a bronze medal after losing to Jose Rodriguez Tenorio of Ecuador in the semifinals of the 71kg weight class.

Shooting: Ozer gold gives Canada an Olympic quota

Tugrul Ozer showed his skill on the range, scoring 240.5 in the men’s 10m air pistol final to set a Pan Am Games record and take the gold medal. This performance earns Canada an Olympic quota spot in the event for Paris 2024. The last time the country qualified a male pistol shooter for the Olympics was at Barcelona 1992.

  • Tugrul Ozer holds his pistol in the air while smiling

It was a close competition, and the win came down to the final shot as he edged out American James Hall, who scored 239.3.

« It was quite stressful, » Ozer said afterwards, « I was just focusing on my technique and my process and relying on it. »

Originally from Turkey, which he had represented internationally for several years, Ozer immigrated to Canada in 2017. He now has his sights set on representing his new home country at Paris 2024.

Beach Volleyball: Team Canada flag bearers will play for gold

Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson had an emotional start to Santiago 2023, serving as the flag bearers leading their fellow Team Canada athletes into the opening ceremony.

Chosen for their leadership on and off the field of play, the duo has exhibited their skill over the course of the tournament. They didn’t drop a set through their first five matches, culminating in today’s semifinal victory (21-15, 21-15) against Argentina.

« There’s lots we can keep improving and we know we can play better, but at the same time, we don’t need that feeling to win. So it’s also encouragement that we can figure it out. Throughout the whole game we stuck together and we let go of any stress or expectations and just did what we needed to do, » said Wilkerson.

The gold medal match on Friday should be a good one, as they face Brazilians Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Eduarda Santos Lisboa, also known as Duda. That duo is ranked first in the world while first-year partners Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson are ranked fifth.

« We want to head in with a good mindset, good energy, great communication. I think that’s going to be most important. Once we’re in that good space, I think everything comes together, » said Humana-Paredes.

Racquetball: Another silver for Iwaasa and Murray

Having already won silver in the men’s doubles, Coby Iwaasa and Samuel Murray took silver medal in the men’s team racquetball event after a tough battle with the Bolivian duo of Carlos Keller Vargas and Conrrado Moscoso. The Bolivians had finished 1-2 in the men’s singles event earlier in the Games and defeated the Canadians in both singles matches today.

« It’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling, » Iwaasa said post-match. « I’m proud to have come this far. I know I left it all on the court and played as hard as I could. »

Modern Pentathlon: Fitzsimmons and Wiebe take bronze

Kelly Fitzsimmons and Devan Wiebe teamed up to earn the bronze medal in the women’s relay. Thoughout the day they competed in fencing, swimming, and equestrian jumping before finishing off with the laser run. They earned 1155 points, putting them on the third step of the podium behind Mexico (1283) and the Independent Athletes Team (1219) made up of competitors from Guatemala.

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

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