By Martin Cleary
Five years ago this month, sprint kayak racer Madeline Schmidt posted the final entry in her excellent blog about life as a competitive paddler.
For 28 months, the Rideau Canoe Club athlete wrote about the highs and lows of racing for her country, her club and herself. It was insightful, personal and funny.
The last paragraph of her final blog on Nov. 15, 2018, told readers the 2019 season would be all about the process of becoming a 2020 Olympian in Tokyo, which was ultimately rescheduled until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our team’s goal this year is to qualify for the Olympics,” Schmidt wrote. “All the other disciplines have the same big goal of qualifying for the Olympics. That isn’t a small feat. It isn’t easy.
“It isn’t going to be alone. And there is no way it will happen if it isn’t fun. That’s my goal. My goal is to qualify for the Olympics, laughing with my team, because otherwise … what’s the point?”
Schmidt put a big check mark beside her goal and competed in the K-2 and K-4 races over 500 metres at the Olympics.
If Schmidt was to revisit her blog and write a summary about her 2023 season, she could title it: The Longest Season. She also could use the same two concluding paragraphs to finish it as she looks ahead to chasing her 2024 Olympic dream in Paris.
The long-and-seemingly-endless 2023 competitive racing season for Schmidt has one more race and that could produce a medal Saturday at the Pan-American Games in Laguna Grande San Pedro de la Paz, Chile, the venue for sprint canoeing. The new canoe-kayak racing course is about 500 kilometres south of Santiago, the host city of the Games.
The Longest Season could talk about Schmidt starting her 2023 racing in the spring in the Northern Hemisphere and finishing it in the spring in the Southern Hemisphere, competing in South America for the first time and racing in her first Pan-Am Games at the age of 28.
On Thursday, Schmidt and partner Courtney Stott placed second in their women’s K-2 500-metre heat under ideal weather conditions in one minute, 46.19 seconds. By finishing in the top two, they automatically qualified for Saturday’s final. Cuba’s Daylen Rodriguez Perez and Yurieni Guerra Herrera won the heat in 1:45.51.
“It was smooth,” Schmidt said about their morning heat. “We executed well.
“It has been a really long season. We usually end our season with the world championships (end of August in Duisburg, Germany for 2023). But the Pan-Am Games came (two months) after worlds. When we came here, we were tired.”
But Schmidt also was confident in her abilities for one more strong competition, even though she is only scheduled for one race. The Thursday morning heat increased her excitement level for the final.
“We want to be more aggressive on the start and add more aggression at the finish,” Schmidt added.
The trip to Chile from Canada was long for one race, but it’s a good rehearsal for a potential second Olympic Games.
“It’s definitely different,” she continued. “When I grew up, we’d race at nationals and have three or four races a day for four or five days. I’m used to racing a lot.
“But with only one race, there’s a bit more focus and I must be prepared and put all my energy into that one race. This is the same as the Olympics.”
Being detached from the main venues of the Pan-Am Games in Santiago gives a feeling of isolation, but she’s used to that in her sport.
“It’s normal for our sport. Our course takes up a lot of real estate,” she explained. “I look forward to the closing ceremony and seeing all the other Canadian athletes, who have been so impressive.”
CANADA MISSES OPPORTUNITY FOR SECOND MEN’S RECURVE OLYMPIC BERTH
Archery Canada’s bid to capture a second quota spot in the men’s individual recurve competition for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games is over and it ended rather early.
Ottawa’s Eric Peters, who earned the first Olympic quota berth by finishing second at the recent world championships, and four-time Olympian Crispin Duenas of Toronto won their opening round-of-32 matches, but were eliminated in the round of 16.
Canada needed to place an archer in the top two to earn a second berth in the Paris Olympics.
Peters almost lost his first bracket match and needed to go to a one-arrow shootout to edge Marco Lopez of the Independent Athletes Team 6-5.
Peters won the first set (three arrows each) 29-27 and tied the second 27-27 for a 3-1 lead in points. But Lopez rebounded to win the next two games 27-26 and 30-27 to move into a 5-3 lead, which put him one point away from victory. But Peters responded to win the fifth game 27-26 and tie the match 5-5.
The deadlock was decided with a shootout, where Peters shot a 10 with his sudden-death arrow and Lopez had an eight.
But in the round of 16, Peters fell to Cuba’s Juan Santiesteban 6-2 on scores of 27-28, 30-27, 26-24 and 29-28.
Duenas defeated Canadian teammate Brandon Xuereb 26-27, 30-28, 29-27,28-27 in the round of 32, but dropped his round-of-16 test to Mexico’s Carlos Rojas 30-28, 28-27, 29-24.
NO OLYMPIC BERTH, BUT STILL CHANCE AT BRONZE FOR CANADA’S WOMEN’S FIELD HOCKEY TEAM
Canada will play for the bronze medal in women’s field hockey, after losing its semifinal 3-0 to Argentina as well as an opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.
The gold medal winner earns its country a berth in the Paris Olympics.
Argentina dominated the semifinal game, earning 15 penalty corners and scoring on two of them against Canadian goalkeeper Rowan Harris of Ottawa and connecting on the other goal from the field.
The three Argentine goals came off 21 shots and it had possession of the ball for 59 per cent of the game. Argentina led 2-0 at halftime.
Midfielder Kenzie Girgis of Ottawa also played for Canada.
Argentina, ranked third in the world, was heavily favoured over #16 Canada, which went 2-1 in the preliminary round to advance to the medal round.
WATER POLO TEAMS A STEP CLOSER TO OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION
Canada remains in the running to qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games in men’s and women’s water polo by easily advancing to the Pan-Am Games semifinals.
The men’s and women’s gold medallists automatically advance to the Paris Olympics.
Canada stormed past Chile, scoring 33 goals on 40 shots, while allowing only two goals in its women’s quarter-final match. In Friday’s scheduled semi-finals, Canada will meet Brazil.
Goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault of Ottawa played 14 minutes and 11 seconds and didn’t permit a goal for Canada, while former Capital Wave player Floranne Carroll scored goals on all three of her shots during 12:36 of pool time.
Bogdan Djerkovic of Ottawa scored three goals off six shots as Canada outscored Mexico 20-5 in the men’s quarterfinals. Canada is scheduled to play Brazil in the semifinals on Friday.
Aleksa Gardijan of Gatineau had five shots and scored one goal for Canada.
EUGENE WANG LIFTS CANADA TO TABLE TENNIS MEN’S TEAM WIN
Former Ottawa athlete Eugene Wang of Aurora, ON., sparked Canada to a narrow 3-2 win over Puerto Rico in the opening round of the men’s team event in table tennis.
Canada rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 in the best-of-five match and Wang was the strength of the comeback, winning his two singles matches. He defeated Brian Afanador 16-14, 11-9, 11-9 in the tight fifth and deciding match to break a 2-2 tie, after an earlier 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory over Daniel Gonzalez Negron to even the match at 1-1.
Canada is scheduled to play its quarterfinal on Friday.
WINDSURFER REBECCA HELLER PLACES 8TH
Rebecca Heller of Dunrobin, ON., finished the 16-race, women’s windsurfing iQFoil class sailing competition in eighth place.
Heller had three races on Thursday, posting her 10th did not finish result, an eighth and a seventh in races 14 through 16 respectively.
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.
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