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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 13: De Haître, Gee reach highest Canadian finish in decades

By Kieran Heffernan, Dan Plouffe, Charlie Pinkerton, Madalyn Howitt & Martin Cleary

Vincent De Haître, Derek Gee, Michael Foley and Jay Lamoureux repeated their win against Germany to finish 5th overall in the men’s team pursuit. This is the country’s best finish in the event since 1932, when the Canadians came 4th.

The race went exactly as planned, according to the strategy our Martin Cleary reported prior to the Olympics. De Haître got Team Canada off to a fast start, beginning in the front and taking the team through the first 1000 metres in 1:01.143. He then rolled off, since only three riders need to finish the race in the team pursuit competition.

Already a second faster than the Germans after the 1st kilometre, the Canadians increased their lead over the rest of the 4-kilometre race, with all three remaining riders taking turns leading the pack. Canada finished almost 4 seconds ahead of Germany, with the two teams being able to be seen basically on the same straightway at times.

The team’s time of 3:46.324 broke the Canadian record that they had just set a day earlier, 3:46.769, in the 1st classification round.

Here’s video of the race, courtesy of CBC:

Gee still has one more competition to go in Tokyo, the madison relay race, which takes place early Saturday morning, eastern time.

De Haître will have barely any time to rest before trying to qualify for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Those Games are being held this winter, beginning on Feb. 4, 2022.


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If he qualifies, the 27-year-old speedskater-turned-cyclist would compete in his fourth Olympics, and third Winter Games.

Day 14 Preview: Lions’ alumni team up in 4x400m

Canada’s women’s 4x400m relay team begins its competition tonight, and features two Ottawa athletes: Alicia Brown and Lauren Gale.

Their team’s heat is being held Thursday morning, eastern time. In the event, the top 3 teams from each of the two heats, plus the next two fastest teams, will move on to the finals.

Brown and Gale are both among the five Canadian runners on the team’s start list, but by just after noon on Wednesday it wasn’t clear which members would run in the heat. 

Ahead of the Games, our Madalyn Howitt spoke to a pleasantly surprised Lauren Gale about being named to Canada’s Olympic team.

Gale was sitting on her porch when she first heard the news that she’d be making her Olympic debut. But it wasn’t through a phone call, text or email that she found out — it was through a Tweet.

“The Ottawa Lions had tweeted congrats for making the team, and I was like oh my gosh,” Gale said with a laugh. “Technically they broke the news to me.”

At 21-years-old, Gale is the youngest member of Canada’s track and field squad. It’s a remarkable accomplishment, especially since she’ll be competing in an event that is somewhat notorious for being a gruelling race. Yet given her obvious natural talent and her determined spirit, it’s a feat that her coaches and mentors are not at all surprised to see her achieve.

“She ran the type of time as a 16-year-old that very, very few 16-years-olds can run,” said John Riese, Gale’s coach at Colorado State University, where the sprinter is studying to be a dental hygienist.

He said Gale’s impressive finish times as a teenager indicated she was quickly on the path to become an Olympian.

Running the 400m in 51.96 seconds earlier this year is what landed her a Team Canada spot.

“I’m super excited [to be on the team] because I think starting at the Olympics super young can mean more opportunities to go again at a more mature age. Hopefully I can follow some other athletes [and] get more into the rhythm of big competitions like this,” Gale said.

One of Gale’s inspirations is her teammate and fellow Ottawa Lions alumna, Brown.

The Tokyo Games are Brown’s second Olympics. She also spoke with the Sports Pages before they began, explaining how she’s managed to balance training with the rest of her life.

Brown has had a full-time job during her entire athletic career, but the past year and a half has added injuries, mental health struggles, and scheduling complications into the mix. Not to mention the fact she was planning on retiring after the 2020 Olympics. She’s had to focus on keeping her mind set on what she initially set out to do at the Games, even if it took an extra year of waiting to get there. For her, possibly missing the Games because of their postponement wasn’t really an option.

“I wouldn’t have felt quite right if I had chosen to retire … and the goal for the last five years now was to fight for a second Olympics, and so I knew that I needed to give myself the opportunity to at least try,” Brown said.

Brown competed in the 400m and the 4x400m events at the Rio Olympics, placing 4th place with the relay team.

She said the biggest challenge she has faced since the onset of the pandemic was the lack of training facilities.

Since 2008, she had been training out of the University of Toronto, but those facilities haven’t opened since the start of the pandemic. It wasn’t until late last fall that she was able to start training at York University’s Toronto Track and Field Centre, where she needed a high performance sport exemption from the City of Toronto. There, her week-to-week schedule was never the same.  

She’s grateful for the flexibility that’s been offered to her at her job doing communications and marketing for U of T’s Hart House fitness centre. She sometimes works extra early or late in order to make time for training during the day.

Injuries are something else Brown has been struggling with since the indoor season, in particular with her tendons. A number of other athletes on the national team have experienced similar injuries, Brown said, and their physical therapists were starting to notice.

“We think part of the reason of (the increase in tendon injuries) is because athletes didn’t have access to weight training facilities, and they weren’t carrying the same load on a daily basis,” she said.

In addition to her physical health, Brown also began to struggle more with her mental health while training during the pandemic.

“I’ve had probably smaller bouts but very manageable bouts. But what I experienced over the last year and a half was to a point where I recognized that I needed more support,” she said.

“Athlete culture is very much go, go, go, and push, push, push, and grind, and that’s not always healthy, and so this year I learned to take a step back when I needed to.”

After the Olympics, Brown plans to put that lesson to wider use.

“What I would like to do differently this year, as opposed to what I did following the Rio Olympics, is just carve out a little bit more time and space for myself,” the 31-year-old said. “My priority post-Olympics is just to take some time away from work, and just recover.”

To read more about Canada’s women’s 4x400m team, check out this piece by the National Post.

OF NOTE:

Vanessa Gilles and the women’s soccer team’s historic gold-medal game against Sweden is scheduled for 10 p.m., in eastern time, on Thursday. Locally, that’ll be 11 a.m. in Tokyo.

Because of the heat combined with the humidity, midday temperatures have reached as high as 47 degrees Celsius in Tokyo in recent days. For that reason, both Canada’s and Sweden’s teams have requested that the IOC move the start time of the gold medal game.

As of midday on Wednesday, the final’s start time had not been changed.

All Ottawa Olympians’ schedules can be found here.

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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