By Dan Plouffe
The season that was largely forgettable for hammer thrower Sultana Frizell finished on a positive upswing as the Ottawa Lions athlete celebrated her 27th birthday with a Pan Am Games silver medal Monday in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Up against four athletes ranked higher than her in the world’s top 20, Frizell took second behind Cuba’s Yipsi Moreno, who set a new Pan Am Games record with a toss that surpassed Frizell’s 70.11-meter throw by 5.51 m.
“I am super happy,” Frizell said in a Canadian Olympic Committee news release. “I performed pretty well [Monday] and almost had it on my last throw (which clipped the boundary fence). It felt so good.”
Frizell’s Pan Am Games throw was better than her Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning distance and not far off the mark that gave her a top-10 at the 2009 world championships.
“My training was the best it’s been all year (leading up to the Pan Am Games),” Frizell said in an interview with SportsOttawa.com before leaving for Guadalajara. “It’s maybe the best ever.”
The Pan Am Games performance was in contrast to the majority of Frizell’s season, which did not include a trip to the world championships in South Korea because she realized shortly before the qualification period closed that her throw that achieved the required standard had come before the official qualifying timeframe began.
“I struggled technically over the year to try to find my rhythm. Somewhere along the line, I lost it and I’d been wanting to rip my hair out,” Frizell noted, adding that a trip home to Ottawa and Perth, while the world championship was on, was heartbreaking. “After I watched that final, a light switched on and I was like, ‘Dude, that’s not going to happen again.’”
With the Pan Am Games in the books, Frizell will now turn her attention to winter training, which she plans to do mostly in Phoenix and San Diego to avoid the cold at her regular full-time training site in Kamloops, B.C.
“It’s to produce good training in a highly competitive environment,” Frizell explained, noting that it’s great to have the option of training indoors both in Kamloops and Ottawa but that it doesn’t replicate the conditions outdoors in the field. “I need to get out there and throw.”
Of course, the London 2012 Olympics will be the next major event on the horizon for Frizell, but she tries to keep that out of her mind as much as possible.
“They do creep in every once in a while because now everyone’s started the countdown,” Frizell noted. “I just have to keep my focus in mind on what happens in the circle every day. When I look too far, I lose focus on my training, and the technical aspects of hammer throw have to be so on to produce good distances, so I’m really looking inwards this year.”
Frizell was just one of many Ottawa athletes to capture medals in recent days at the Pan Am Games.
Mo Zhang was undefeated in the women’s singles table tennis competition, dropping only six of 34 sets en route to a gold medal.
“I’m happy to win this gold because I can qualify for the Olympic Games next year,” the 21-year-old noted in a COC news release. “At the last Pan American Games, I didn’t play well in singles but, this time, I did.”
Former Ottawa resident Samantha Cornett also won gold, earning first place for Canada in the women’s squash team event along with Miranda Ranieri and Stephanie Edmison.
“I can tell you I was nervous and it took me a game to settle in and relax a little bit before I could find my groove,” Cornett said. “It feels so good to do it together as a team and we all contributed and it feels amazing.”
Chris Bisson also won gold with the Canadian men’s baseball team, who beat USA 2-1 in the championship final. Bisson appeared only in Canada’s opening match, earning a walk during a 5-4 win over Puerto Rico.
Former Nepean-Corona gymnast Talia Chiarelli helped the Canadian women’s artistic gymnastics team to a Pan Am Games silver medal on the heels of a world championships performance that qualified Canada for the London 2012 Games.
“We are happy about winning silver,” said 16-year-old Chiarelli, who qualified for the balance beam event final and also ranked fourth behind two Canadian teammates. “We are a young team and are overjoyed with this result.”
Ottawa equestrian athlete Selena O’Hanlon won a trio of silver medals with the Canadian eventing team, earning second place in all three dressage, cross-country, and jumping disciplines while earning a top individual result of 10th in dressage.
Ottawa Fury players Rachelle Beanlands and Christina Julien are assured of at least a silver medal in the women’s soccer competition after the Canadian women won their semi-final match over Colombia Tuesday.
The local pair played an especially large role in the game that clinched Canada’s place in the medal round with a 1-0 win over Argentina as Julien scored the lone goal and Beanlands recorded the shutout in goal.
“ (Rachelle) grew in confidence as the match wore on,” coach John Herdman said in a Canadian Soccer Association release, reflecting on Beanlands’ first major international start. “Perhaps those first five minutes were shaky, but she grew in confidence and made some good decisions and made a good save.”
Team Canada will play Brazil, who they earlier tied 0-0, for gold on Thursday.
Aaron Feltham and John Conway have both made significant contributions to the Canadian men’s water polo that has gone undefeated through pool play.
Feltham scored twice while Conway added another in Canada’s 15-7 victory over Columbia, while each player scored a goal in both the 15-10 win over Cuba and the 16-4 rout of the host Mexicans.
Team Canada will continue to chase the Olympic berth that goes to the gold medalist with its semi-final match against Brazil on Thursday.
Kellie Ring played around 15 minutes a game for the Canadian women’s basketball team, recording 10 points in total during her four matches at the tournament. Canada – without the services of Kadie Riverin, the Ottawa native who was expected to be the team’s most experienced player, due to injury – finished sixth overall.
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