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Handful of Ottawa athletes inches and seconds from medalling at Tokyo Olympics

Did you miss our Ottawa at the Olympics daily coverage, or want to relive the Games? Visit our Olympics Central webpage.

By Kieran Heffernan

While Vanessa Gilles’ gold medal win with Canada’s women’s soccer team was the unquestioned top highlight for Ottawa’s Olympians, several other athletes finished with results to be proud of.

Alicia Brown

Several Ottawa Olympians finished just off the podium. One of them was Alicia Brown, who along with the rest of the women’s 4x400m relay team finished milliseconds away from 3rd place, as well as milliseconds away from a Canadian record. The team of Brown, Maddy Price, Kyra Constantine and Sage Watson clocked in at 3:21.84 in the finals, landing them a respectable 4th, with the 3rd-place Jamaican team coming in at 3:21:24. The Canadian record-holding team of Charmaine Crooks, Molly Killingbeck, Jillian Richardson-Briscoe and Marita Payne-Wiggins had a time of 3:21:21 when they won silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. That team is the only Canadian group to ever win an Olympic medal in the women’s 4x400m relay.

Brown’s fellow Ottawa Lion Lauren Gale was also on the relay team but wasn’t tapped to race. However, with Brown planning to retire, Gale has the opportunity to take on a larger role with the team in the future.

Cyclists impress with near-podium rides

Ottawa’s cyclists, on both the road and track, also had near-podium results. Mike Woods came 5th in the road race, a result he said was about as good as he could’ve hoped for. 

“I said to the guys before, if I have a good day I’ll come top 5, if I have a really good day, and good luck, I’ll get a medal, and if I have really, really good luck I’ll get gold,” he stated after the race. After his Olympic event, Woods won an important personal race by rushing back to his home in Andorra, where he arrived just 24 hours before his son was born.

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Both the men’s and women’s team pursuit track cycling teams had record-breaking rides. Gatineau’s Ariane Bonhomme, along with Allison Beveridge, Annie Foreman-Mackey and Georgia Simmerling, broke a Canadian record set by the team in February 2020 (but that race featured Jasmin Duehring instead of Bonhomme). The team’s new record time of 4:09.249, set in the first round, led them to the bronze medal race against the United States, where they finished around 2.5 seconds too slow for the podium. 

Derek Gee

Ottawa athletes Vincent De Haître and Derek Gee, along with Michael Foley and Jay Lamoureux, also beat their own record in the men’s team pursuit competition. Their time of 3:46.769 in the classification round was over three seconds shorter than the old record, set in 2019. In the finals, they rode even faster, once again beating their own record and finishing with a time of 3:46.324. The team finished 5th overall, which was Canada’s best finish in the event since 1932, when the Canadian team came 4th.

“Results wise, I’m thrilled with how it went,” Gee said in a phone interview, looking back on the competition two weeks later. “Our goal at first was just to qualify for the Olympics. Only eight countries getting a spot was a really tough ask.”

Setting a new record was extra special, given the circumstance of the old Canadian record, set at the Pan Am Championships in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

“We actually set the previous Canadian record at what’s considered the fastest track in the world. And then we absolutely smashed it at Tokyo. So that was kind of the cherry on top,” Gee said. He hopes to compete in the omnium in 2024, an event he just missed qualifying for at Tokyo.

34-year-old Olympic fencing rookie ponders pushing on to Paris

Kelleigh Ryan

Fencer Kelleigh Ryan finished in the top 10 in both the individual and team foil competitions. The long-time Team Canada member but first time Olympian made it the farthest of the Canadian women in the individual competition, eventually finishing 8th. She also competed in one match in the team competition before she was subbed out. Olympic rules only allow one substitution, making her ineligible to participate for the rest of the competition. Team Canada eventually finished 5th. 

“I had no idea what was possible,” Ryan said of her results. “I went into the competition knowing that anything could happen. I think I fenced really well and was able to show myself at the Olympics, and I’m really proud of that.”

At first, Ryan was sure she was going to retire after Tokyo, then six months ago started thinking about continuing. At the Olympics though, she thought she might have changed her mind again. 

“I was so tired after all the work we put in. I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t do anymore, I’m satisfied with my results,’” she said. But now, weeks later, she’s uncertain.

“I had hoped that I would have a bit more clarity at this point, but I’m not forcing myself to make any decisions until September,” she said. “There’s still a little bit of me that’s asking ‘What if I continue? What’s possible? Could we medal in Paris?’”

Did you miss our Ottawa at the Olympics daily coverage, or want to relive the Games? Visit our Olympics Central webpage.

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