By Martin Cleary
Amy Millar of Perth and her 14-year-old bay gelding Truman were jumping for joy Wednesday at her first Pan-American Games, which are being held in Santiago, Chile.
There were two distinct reasons for their celebration at the Regimiento Granaderos Riding School. They played a vital role in Canada not only winning the equestrian show jumping team event silver medal, but also earning a quota spot for the country to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.
“This is a critical moment for our sport, for our program, for the people that invest in our horses and that invest in us,” Millar told CBC Sports. “We get to ship forward and start planning for the next thing, which is going to be Paris.
“This is something we’ve been working at for so long that it’s just starting to settle in. I’m glowing on the inside.”
Canada entered the day looking for a podium finish in order to secure a Paris Olympic qualification position.
Canada held a narrow .96-point lead over fourth-place Mexico for the third and final Olympic qualifying position after three of four rounds. Millar was the third of four Canadians to take to the ring. A Mexican rider put the pressure on with a clear ride just before Millar and Truman’s turn, but the Perth pair responded with their own faultless tour.
Beth Underhill and Nikka Vd Bisschop then followed with a perfect run to vault Canada clear of Mexico and ahead of Brazil too into the silver medal position.
The United States charged to a gold-medal victory, after a day of faultless riding. The Americans had been in fifth place following Tuesday’s opening team round but turned things around Wednesday to surge to the top. Canada finished with 17.62 points for second place and Brazil took third at 20.32 points.
Earlier at the Santiago Pan-Ams, Canada qualified its equestrian teams in dressage and eventing for the 2024 Olympics.
The team competition also served as the qualification round for Friday’s individual final. Millar placed ninth in the standings and will compete alongside fellow Canadians Tiffany Foster (fifth) and Underhill (11th) in the final.
Millar, whose father Ian competed at a record 10 Olympic Games, now has the opportunity to go after an Olympic team medal for a second time. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Millar, Foster, Eric Lamaze and Yann Candele finished fourth, after losing a jump-off for the bronze medal.
EUGENE WANG COLLECTS THIRD PAN-AM GAMES MEN’S BRONZE MEDAL
When it comes to the Pan-Am Games, former Ottawa table tennis player Eugene Wang has an attraction to the bronze medal.
The Aurora, ON., resident earned his second bronze of the Santiago Pan-Ams on Wednesday, when he lost his men’s singles semifinal in a 42-minute battle with Cuba’s Andy Pereira Diez.
Wang, who is ranked 90th in the world, fell behind early and couldn’t respond as he dropped his match 11-8, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 12-10. Pereira Diez is No. 150 on the men’s world ranking list.
“This is my third Pan-Am Games singles bronze medal and I was looking forward to breaking (that string),” Wang told the Canadian Olympic Committee media attache after his match. “Obviously, my opponent had a good performance. I’m pretty sad I didn’t make it.”
The losing semi-finalists automatically are slotted into the bronze-medal position and this is the third time it has happened for Wang. He previously won bronze in men’s singles at the 2019 Lima and 2015 Toronto Pan-Ams.
His third men’s singles bronze also was his second medal of the same colour at the 2023 Santiago Games. In mixed doubles, he teamed with Mo Zhang, another former Ottawa player now living in Vancouver, for his first bronze on Monday. Zhang also lost her women’s singles semifinal, which brought her a bronze medal.
Wang, who will turn 38 on Nov. 13, and Zhang won the mixed doubles gold medal at the 2019 Lima Games and were aiming to reach the final in Santiago to secure a Pan-Am region quota spot for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.
The medals won by Wang and Millar on Wednesday give the Ottawa and area contingent a total of 11 medals – two gold, three silver and six bronze.
RAIN HAMPERS KEIRA CHRISTIE-GALLOWAY IN 100-METRE HURDLES FINAL
Weather played a big role in the athletics women’s 100-metre hurdles final and Keira Christie-Galloway of Ottawa appeared to feel it the most.
The Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club sprinter placed eighth in the rainy medal race in 13.60 seconds. In a final that had the potential to see half of the field of eight runners dash under 13 seconds, the rain kept every athlete out of the 12-second range. The wind was not a factor at 0.2 metres a second.
Costa Rica’s Andrea Vargas won the gold medal at 13.06 seconds, while Greisys Roble of Cuba took silver at 13.09 seconds and Alaysha Johnson of the United States finished with the bronze at 13.19 seconds.
“It was good,” Christie-Galloway told High Achievers in a phone interview. “I was overall happy, but the conditions were rainy. It was a bit of an adjustment.”
ARCHERY’S ERIC PETERS BUSY ON RANKING DAY
The opening session for archery was ranking day and Ottawa’s Eric Peters was shooting arrows to compete in three recurve events – men’s individual, men’s team and mixed team.
The 2023 world men’s silver medallist consistently finished in the middle of the top-10 standings, but quickly lost one of his three medal opportunities.
Competing with Canadian teammates Crispin Duenas and Brandon Xuereb, the three-member national squad ranked fifth in men’s team recurve with 1,990 points, but lost its quarterfinal 5-1 to Brazil.
In its head-to-head match with Brazil, Canada scored its only point in the first game as both countries tied at 57-57 from their respective six arrows. Each country earned one point.
But Brazil proved more consistent in the second and third games, hitting more 10s and higher scores outside the 10 zone to win 58-56 and 58-55 for a pair of two-point wins.
In the semifinals, the top-ranked United States (2,034 points) defeated Brazil 6-2 and Mexico edged Colombia 5-3.
Peters was the top Canadian in the men’s individual recurve ranking, placing sixth at 675 points. Duenas, a four-time Olympian, was 10th at 667 points and Xuereb took 24th at 648 points. Canada already has earned one Olympic qualifying spot in the men’s individual event and can receive a second with a top-two finish.
In the mixed recurve team ranking, Peters and Virginie Chenier were fifth at 1,320 points behind the United States, 1,359 points; Mexico, 1,358 points; Brazil, 1,336 points; and Colombia, 1,334 points.
On Thursday, Peters will focus on his first match in the men’s individual competition against Marco Lopez of the Independent Athletes Team in the round of 32 as well as joining Chenier for a round-of-16 mixed recurve team match against Puerto Rico.
CASCADES’ SOPHIA JENSEN SPRINTS INTO C-1 200-METRE FINAL
Sophia Jensen’s first Pan-Am Games moment was memorable and lasted well under a minute.
The Cascades Canoe Club paddler won her women’s C-1 200-metre semifinal in 47.13 seconds and advanced directly to Friday’s final.
Cuba’s Yarisleidis Cirico Duboy, the 2023 world champion in the event, captured the second semifinal in 46.96 seconds.
Madeline Schmidt of the Rideau Canoe Club and Courtney Stott are scheduled to compete in their women’s K-2 500-metre heat on Thursday.
QUARTERFINALS NEXT STOP FOR UNBEATEN CANADIAN WATER POLO TEAMS
The Canadian men’s and women’s water polo teams are slated for quarter-final action on Thursday, after winning their respective round-robin pools at 3-0.
Ottawa’s Bogdan Djerkovic and Gatineau’s Aleksa Gardijan scored one goal apiece as Canada defeated Argentina 14-7 in its final men’s group match. Canada’s scheduled quarter-final opponent is Mexico.
The Canadian’s women’s team outscored Mexico 32-7 to remain undefeated after three games and moved into its quarterfinal against Chile.
Former Capital Wave player Floranne Carroll scored two goals off her two shots. Goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault of Ottawa played eight minutes of the game before sharing the net duties with Clara Vulpisi.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.