Day 14 at Santiago 2023: Paddlers deliver five medals, sailors qualify boats for Paris 2024
Heading into the last weekend of the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, Team Canada’s medal count shows no signs of slowing down. Canada’s paddlers led the way today, delivering five medals on their first day of finals. Elsewhere on the water, Team Canada’s sailors qualified two more boats for Paris 2024.
Here are some of today’s top stories:
Canoe Kayak Sprint: Five medals on first day of finals
It was a hugely successful day on the water for Team Canada’s paddlers who brought in five medals, including three gold, one silver and one bronze. Canada reached the podium in every final that was raced today.
Michelle Russell topped the podium in the women’s K-1 500m, bringing in Team Canada’s first medal of the day. She finished in 1:51.25, three-quarters of a second ahead of the runner-up. Russell previously competed in the Pan Am Games at Toronto 2015 where she won three medals, which included a silver in this event. She finished sixth in the K-1 500m at the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, which qualified Canada in the event for Paris 2024.
“I’m excited to be the first one done — more time to cheer for everyone else!” Russell said post-race. And her cheering must have been effective, as her teammates went on a medal spree in her wake.
Ian Gaudet and Simon McTavish were next up and took gold in the men’s K-2 500m in a time of 1:30.45, finishing almost a second ahead of second place. Gaudet and McTavish are a new combination in the two-man kayak. Still just 20, Gaudet finished top-five in the K-1 500m at the U23 world championships earlier this year. McTavish is a veteran who competed at Tokyo 2020.
“To go out there and have a good race as our first race together — it’s pretty special,” McTavish said afterwards.
Completing the gold rush were Alix Plomteux and Craig Spence in the men’s C-2 500m with a time of 1:42.12. They were almost a second and a half faster than the runners-up. They competed together in this event at the world championships in late August.
“We’re really proud of the whole team,” Plomteux said post-competition. “I think it’s part of what we’ve done this whole year, all the training we’ve done. I think it shows that we didn’t give up and we’ve worked hard all year, so it’s great to have a lot of medals today.”
In the women’s K-4 500m Courtney Stott, Natalie Davison, Riley Melanson and Toshka Besharah brought home the silver. The Canadian quartet paddled to a finishing time of 1:35.91. This foursome competed together at the 2023 World Championships where they qualified the boat for Canada for Paris 2024.
“It was definitely a challenging day and while we are extremely proud of the result we got, we are excited to push for more,” Besharah said. “It was a lot of fun standing [on the podium] with these incredible crews that came out today. We are part of the next generation of just absolutely incredible K-4s and we’re very grateful to be a part of that.”
Sophia Jensen secured bronze in the women’s C-1 200m, finishing in 46.87. She was a second back of the winner, Yarisleidis Cirilo of Cuba, who happens to be the reigning world champion. Jensen had finished sixth at the worlds, which earned Canada an Olympic spot in the event for Paris 2024.
“I’ve never been to a major Games before, so I’m feeling super pumped to be here to represent Canada,” Jensen said afterwards. “I have some of the best paddlers in the world in my race, and an awesome opportunity to continue to race against them and get that experience.”
Sailing: Two medals and two Olympic spots
It was also a strong day on the water for Team Canada’s sailors.
In the women’s skiff, aka the 49er FX, Ali ten Hove and Mariah Millen sailed their way to a silver medal and a qualification spot for Canada in the class for Paris 2024. They placed second in the medal race on Friday to finish with 26 points overall, putting them two points back of the gold medallists from Brazil.
“It feels amazing. It’s really icing on top of this whole experience,” ten Hove said of the podium finish. “Overcoming Mariah’s knee injury was the real goal. I think if you had asked us just 10 weeks ago if we would be here, we would have said no. So it’s a huge accomplishment and a huge testament to all the hard work Mariah did and all the team back home that has supported us.”
In the men’s skiff, aka the 49er, Justin Barnes and Will Jones also secured an Olympic spot for Canada at Paris 2024 with their bronze medal. They had been in third place heading into the medal race and locked up that position by finishing third in Friday’s final race. They totalled 44 points.
“It was a long week of racing this week and it was all very close until the end,” said Barnes. “We’ve been putting it out there all week and it’s nice to come away with both of our goals which were to qualify Canada and win a medal.”
In both cases, the Olympic qualification was earned because they were the top boat in their class from North America and the Caribbean that was not already qualified.
Field Hockey: Bronze keeps Olympic hopes alive
The Canadian men’s field hockey team claimed bronze after a 3-2 win over Team USA. Team Canada’s goals were scored by Brendan Guraliuk, Fin Boothroyd and Oliver Scholfield, who was playing in his 100th international game for Canada.
“It feels really good,” said Scholfield post-match. “It was a really nice team performance. We had a good game plan, we came out strong. For me, the goal on top was a nice touch, but it really was a team game.”
With this win, Team Canada keeps their Olympic hopes alive. They will take the last Pan American spot in the FIH Olympic Qualifier tournaments that will take place in January.
Squash: Mixed doubles silver for new duo
After playing their way into the gold medal match yesterday, Nicole Bunyan and George Crowne settled for the silver medal in mixed doubles. They ran into tough opponents from the United States in the final, going down 1-2 (6-11, 11-10, 6-11). Crowne and Bunyan are relatively new to both doubles and each other as teammates. Both making their Pan American Games debut.
“The field was packed, there were some incredibly strong teams, so we’re grateful to have the silver medal. Obviously it’s bittersweet as we were right there toe to toe with them in the final,” Crowne said.
The Canadian men’s and women’s teams have advanced to tomorrow’s semifinals, guaranteeing them each at least a bronze medal.
Fencing: Double silver in team events
Team Canada earned silver in the men’s team foil event after losing to the world number one, Team USA, by a score of 45-19. Team Canada was composed of Blake Broszus, Maximilien van Haaster and Patrick Liu. While Broszus and Liu are competing at their first Pan An Games, it is the second straight for van Haaster who upgrades from the team foil bronze he won at Lima 2019.
“It was definitely a difficult bout for us. We really got to test our abilities against them. They’re a super worthy opponent,” Broszus said afterwards.
The women of Team Canada responded with a silver of their own in the team sabre, also going down to a tough American team 45-29. Canada was represented by Pamela Brind’Amour, Marissa Ponich and Tamar Gordon. For Brind’Amour and Ponich, the silver is also a step up from the bronze they won at Lima 2019. Gordon joins her older brother Shaul as a medallist in Santiago. He claimed bronze in the men’s individual sabre and has his team event tomorrow.
“Of course it’s disappointing, but it was a good day for us,” said Brind’Amour. “In June, we finished fifth at the Pan American Championships, and now we’re second here, so it’s a big improvement.”
Artistic Swimming: Canada takes team bronze
Over at the pool, Team Canada’s artistic swimmers took bronze in the mixed team event. The competition concluded on Friday with the acrobatic routine. Scores from that were added to the scores from earlier in the week in the technical and free routines. Canada finished with 662.0521 points to place behind Mexico (786.2546) and the United States (785.5908).
Mexico takes the Olympic team spot that was available in Santiago, but Canada will have another opportunity to qualify for Paris 2024 at the World Aquatics Championships in February.
“It’s a really incredible feeling just to come together as a team and have beautiful swims. We’ve gone through so much in the past and we’ve really glued together as a team,” Kenzie Priddell said. “When we started, we felt the crowd, we were so excited to swim, we felt each other all together giving it one last everything we’ve got and it really paid off. We’re so proud of ourselves.”
Karate: Kata bronze for Laos-Loo
Claudia Laos-Loo won bronze in the women’s individual kata, outscoring Isidora Gallo of Chile 40.10 to 39.10.
In kata, competitors are judged based on the technical performance and athletic display of various katas, which in Japanese means “form.” Laos-Loo recorded one win and two losses in her pool to land her into the bronze medal bout. She also had to deal with an energetic crowd rooting on the hometown favourite in Gallo.
“I totally focused on myself out there. I know what I’ve been working on and what I have to execute so I blocked out the noise and my peripheral vision too. I just blurred everything around me and focused on the goal and executing each of my techniques,” Laos-Loo said afterwards.
This is a dream come true for Laos-Loo, who quit her job in October 2021 in order to focus entirely on karate and qualifying for these Pan Am Games.
“I’m very grateful for this result. I know that even if I train in isolation, I am never alone. I have a huge supporting team behind me […] and I hope I represent them well,” Laos-Loo said.
Water Polo: Women to play for gold & Olympic qualification
The Canadian women’s water polo team defeated Brazil 21-4 in their semifinal match and will now face the United States in tomorrow’s final. The winner will receive their ticket to Paris 2024. Elyse Lemay-Lavoie led the scoring with six goals while Emma Wright added four.
Canada has won the women’s silver medal at every Pan Am Games dating back to 2003, all of which came when facing the United States in the final. Canada last won gold at home in Winnipeg in 1999, the first year women’s water polo was included at the Pan Am Games.
“It was a tiring game. Both we and Brazil knew what was on the line. We expected a hard fight from them, which we got. The score might not show it, but every possession was a battle,” Verica Bakoc said post-match.
The Canadian men will be playing for bronze after a tight 13-12 loss to Brazil.
Other Team Canada news:
- Keegan Soehn and Rachel Tam have advanced to the men’s and women’s individual trampoline finals tomorrow. They also compete in the synchronized finals with their respective partners, Rémi Aubin and Gabriella Flynn.
- Addy Townsend advanced to the final in the women’s 800m, which will take place tomorrow.
- Etienne Papineau sits in second place after the second round of the men’s golf tournament. He shot a one-under par 71 today and is two strokes back of the leader. Alena Sharp is tied for second in the women’s tournament after two rounds, five strokes back of the leader.
- Canada will play Mexico for bronze in women’s softball tomorrow after falling 8-3 to the United States in their last game of the super round.
- B-Boy Phil Wizard (Philip Kim) went 3-0 to win his round robin group and advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals in breaking. The B-Girls quarterfinal will feature two Canadians, B-Girl Tiff (Tiffany Leung) and B-Girl Emma (Emma Misak) after they finished 1-2 in their group.
- Canada is guaranteed one more medal in table tennis after the men’s team advanced to Saturday’s semifinal.
- The Canadian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams have both advanced to the semifinals on Saturday, which will be followed later in the day by the medal matches.
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