By Madalyn Howitt, Charlie Pinkerton, Dan Plouffe & Martin Cleary
It’s without a doubt that Carp triathlete Joanna Brown’s Olympic debut didn’t go as she had hoped, but she mightn’t have been surprised, based on the run of misfortune she’s been through recently.
Despite a short delay caused by heavy rains that continued throughout the race, the women’s triathlon went on as planned in Tokyo yesterday morning (or, evening, here in the eastern time zone).
Brown, the 29th ranked triathlete in the world — who at a time of more favourable circumstances just a few years ago was considered No. 7 in the world, appeared to get off to a promising start in the race.
Brown came out of the water at the Odaiba Marine Park in 14th, about 50 seconds back of the lead. That should have positioned her well within the chase pack during the race’s bike portion. Any hope of that, or improving her position, quickly evaporated.
“Had a front flat from the moment I jumped on my bike and rode as best I could until it was obvious it wasn’t safe,” Brown said in an Instagram post after the race.
“Changed the front only to flat in the rear a lap later. What a day,” she added.
Brown gradually slipped out of contention, and didn’t make it to the running portion of the race, as she was lapped beforehand during the 40-kilometre cycle.
Nineteen of the event’s 53 other racers had similar fates, either pulling out partway due to injury, or being lapped.
Unfortunately for Brown, the result seems par for the course for her lately. Over just a few weeks this spring, she suffered a broken nose, then a kidney infection, which landed her in a hospital in Portugal for a stint that kept her out of action with Canada’s mixed triathlon relay team.
The Sports Pages’ Martin Cleary spoke to Brown in the lead-up to the Games, in which she talked about confronting obstacle after obstacle.
In what may have been the lone bright spot for Brown, her teammate, Amélie Kretz of Ste-Therese, Que., finished 15th.
Brown still has one competition left: the mixed relay, which is scheduled to take place Friday night at 6:30 p.m., eastern time.
Ottawa soccer player Vanessa Gilles was also in action on Day 5 of the Olympics.
Gilles’ fans woke up to exciting news on Tuesday morning when she was announced as a starter for Team Canada. Gilles logged her first Olympic minutes in Canada’s final group stage game, playing the full 90 against Great Britain.
Canada’s captain, legend Christine Sinclair, sat out the game. Both teams rested some starters.
The match was slow to pick up in the first half, with the Canadians at oftentimes fending off the Brits to keep the score tied at zero at the break.
Forward Adriana Leon would put Canada up 1-0 in the 55th minute, but Great Britain matched that tally with just five minutes to go with a shot from distance by midfielder Caroline Weir, which bounced off Canadian forward Nichelle Prince, who was credited with the own goal.
Gilles played an important role for Canada, which was on the defensive for the better part of the game.
Sports Pages reporter Madalyn Howitt briefly spoke with Gilles after the game.
“It was a great feeling to have my Olympic debut,” Gilles said. “It would have been better with fans and a win, but it was a great and fun game against a good opposition.”
Her fans back home were just as excited to see her start with the team.
“I think she played a solid game, and she played her role really well,” said Gilles’ former high school coach Joé Fournier. “She defended well, and she saved some chances from Great Britain.”
Fournier added that his daughter, Nève, was excited to see her two favourite players — centre back Gilles and forward Janine Beckie — passing the ball to each other in the game.
“She has their pictures on her bedroom wall, so she’s always excited to see them play together,” Fournier said.
CBC News wrote this game recap, for those who are interested.
The game against Great Britain was the final group stage match for both teams. The draw was good enough to advance Canada to the knockout games, meaning from here on out, every match is a must-win for Canada.
Canada’s quarterfinal matchup will be against Brazil on Friday at 4 a.m., eastern time, so set your alarms and have your coffee ready!
All Ottawa Olympians’ schedules can be found here.
Day 6 Preview: Tayler giving a go at third Olympics
While canoer Cameron Smedley has sadly had to wave goodbye to his hopes for a medal, hometown hopeful Michael Tayler still has a shot in the kayak slalom event.
If you’re a night owl like those of us at the Sports Pages, you can stay up late to watch Tayler tackle Heat 1 of the men’s kayak-slalom run in Wednesday’s early hours. Tayler should race sometime between 12:47 a.m. and 1:47 a.m., eastern time. Tayler’s second run will be an hour later at around 2:45am.
Cleary spoke with Tayler earlier this summer about his training regimen to prepare for the Games and learned that one of Tayler’s advantages is that he’s had experience on the whitewater courses in Japan. In addition to consistently training in France, Tayler was able to compete on Tokyo’s Kasai Canoe Slalom Course back in October 2019. Over two weekends, he finished with two top-15 results, hopefully setting himself up for similarly strong finishes at these Games.
In his interview with Cleary, Tayler discussed this potential edge over his competitors.
“I’m lucky. It was a long time ago, but I’m familiar with the course,” Tayler said. “I was able to experience the Tokyo course and that helps a lot. They’ve made a few changes to [it]. It’s quicker in places.”
His experiences training at the Pumphouse with Ottawa’s River Runners has also boosted his confidence on the gruelling course.
“You must be precise. Things can change quickly. I like it. I spent so much time over 2020 at the Pumphouse. It’s not at Olympic standard, but it’s similar with the gate distance and gate closeness. It fits my style of paddling.”
Tonight, Tayler will be vying for a qualifying spot in the semifinals, which, if he makes, will have him paddling again in the early hours of Friday morning, eastern time.
This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.
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