By Martin Cleary
Lois Betteridge has rediscovered happiness on the turbulent canoe slalom waters.
The passing of COVID-19 certainly had something to do with it, after the pandemic’s restrictions jostled her life on land and affected her training as well as almost everything else.
A coaching change to Michal Staniszewski of the Ottawa River Runners Whitewater Club also had a big impact.
By the time her up-and-down international season reached this week’s Pan-American Games in Santiago, Chile, she was feeling good about herself as a canoe slalom paddler and her results Sunday were a true reflection.
Betteridge signed off on the three-day competition by winning silver medals in the women’s kayak cross and the C-1 individual race.
Ottawa River Runners teammate Maël Rivard also found his way to the medal podium, when he earned the bronze medal in the one-run men’s K-1 individual final.
The Ottawa and area contingent at the Pan-Am Games captured its eighth medal on Monday, when former local player Eugene Wang of Aurora, ON., and Mo Zhang of Vancouver collected a bronze medal in table tennis’s mixed doubles competition.
Betteridge said she had “a lot of mindset changes over the season,” but was in a better place approaching the Pan-Am Games.
“COVID was difficult. It was not a smooth transition from COVID,” explained Betteridge, the only Canadian paddler to race in C-1, K-1 and kayak cross, in a phone interview with High Achievers. “But I have found the joy of paddling. I’m relaxed … and don’t worry about the races.
“I’ve found my stride and I can’t blame it all on COVID. I wasn’t in the right place at the beginning of the season.”
Betteridge originally crossed the women’s kayak cross finish line in third place, but because Evy Leibfarth of the United States was one of two paddlers to miss the first gate, the Canadian was moved into second and the American placed third in the final standings.
“It was a messy start. We were fighting right off the (start) ramp. Two of them missed the first gate,” Betteridge said about the kayak cross. “I did a phenomenal race. I did all the gates (as well as the roll).”
Once past the start, it was relatively clear paddling the rest of the way for Betteridge.
In the women’s C-1 individual final, Betteridge had a silver-medal score of 119.69 seconds, which included six time penalties for three missed gates. Brazil’s Ana Satila took the gold medal at 108.52 seconds.
“I was relaxed and felt confident,” Betteridge continued. “Overall, the morale was high on the team. Things were going great.”
Rivard had a perfect run through the first 17 gates of the men’s K-1 final, but was tagged with six penalty points for errors on three of the final four gates. He finished with a third-place result at 99.56 seconds.
“I’m really satisfied,” Rivard said in a phone interview. “It’s what I planned for in terms of results. A lot could have been done better and there’s room for improvement, but it’s a step in the right direction. It has been a very long season, which started in April.”
Rivard found the final, which was won by American Joshua Joseph at 91.12 seconds, extremely challenging.
“I had a rough go at it. It was hard today. To finish third was nice,” he explained. “When I crossed the finish, I wasn’t sure where I had placed because it wasn’t my best performance. The conditions were very hard.
“It was a difficult course, cold and rainy. The poles were low and easier to touch and make mistakes. Overall, it was a hard racing course.”
WANG, ZHANG MISS OLYMPIC QUOTA SPOT, EARN BRONZE MEDAL
Eugene Wang and Mo Zhang, who formerly called Ottawa her residence, were hoping to reach the mixed doubles final in table tennis to earn a 2024 Olympic Summer Games quota spot for Canada.
But it didn’t happen as they were extended to six games in their semifinal and fell one game short. They finished with the bronze medal.
Brazil’s Bruna Takahashi and Vitor Ishiy defeated Wang and Zhang 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4, 6-11, 11-8 in 40 minutes.
Earlier, Wang and Zhang defeated Mexico’s Marcos Madrid and Yadira Silva 11-5, 8-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-8 in the quarterfinals and Colombia’s Marcelo Aguirre and Lucero Ovelar 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 11-4 in the round of 16.
CANADA ADVANCES TO FIELD HOCKEY SEMIS AGAINST ARGENTINA
The Canadian women’s field hockey team is off until Thursday, when it will play Argentina in the semifinals.
A convincing 5-0 victory over Mexico allowed Canada to finish second in its Group B round-robin with a 2-1 record. Karli Johansen of North Vancouver led Canada with three goals.
Midfielder Kenzie Girgis of Ottawa and goalkeeper Rowan Harris Ottawa also saw action.
The winner of the field hockey tournament will earn a berth in next summer’s Olympics.
CANADA WINS OPENING MEN’S, WOMEN’S WATER POLO MATCHES
The Canadian men’s water polo team stormed past Chile 28-4 in its first round-robin game.
Gatineau’s Aleksa Gardijan counted two goals off four shots and Ottawa’s Bogdan Djerkovic scored on his only shot.
Canada exploded for six goals in the second quarter and swam to a 14-9 win over Argentina in its opening women’s round-robin water polo match.
Goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault of Ottawa was credited with one rebound and one turnover foul in the first quarter and stopped 15 of 24 shots. Centre-back Floranne Carroll, who formerly played for the Capital Wave Water Polo Club, also was on the Canadian roster.
REBECCA HELLER UNABLE TO FINISH WINDSURFING RACES
The women’s windsurfing iQFoil sailing competition was a write-off for Rebecca Heller.
The Dunrobin, ON., resident was unable to complete any of her eight races. She did not start the ninth race on Monday.
The results sheet showed she had four DNFs on Saturday and another four on Monday. Her second group of four races was moved to Monday after they were postponed on Sunday.
Heller did have company on the bottom half of the results as the windsurfers from Chile and Cuba also couldn’t manage a numerical result and withdrew after the eighth and seventh races respectively.
LINA AUGAITIS STRUGGLES IN WOMEN’S SURF RACE
Former Ottawa athlete Lina Augaitis of Coldstream, B.C., had to wait until the last day and the last race of surfing to hop onto her board.
It was not a race she will want to carry forward.
Augaitis placed ninth in a field of 10 racers in the women’s surf race. She finished in 20:09.0. American Candice Appleby won in 15:24.9.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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