By Martin Cleary
This has been a week of firsts for paddlers Natalie Davison and Sophia Jensen … except on the results sheet.
But that’s OK. Landing on the other two steps of the medal podium also has some definite meaning and certainly is better than being fourth.
Davison and Jensen have enjoyed representing Canada at their first Pan-American Games. They’ve experienced racing at a major competition in November for the first time. And on Friday, they were each thrilled to win their first Pan-Am Games medal, even though it wasn’t, first and foremost, the gold.
While the goal was gold for Davison, who sat in the second seat of Canada’s women’s K-4 500-metre boat, there was initial disappointment with a silver medal. But upon reflection, the second-place medal was determined “awesome.”
A nervous Jensen had a slower start than normal in her women’s C-1 200-metre final, but charged from her fourth-place ranking over the final 50 metres to secure third and the bronze medal. She called that an “amazing” achievement.
The first of two days of canoe sprint finals saw Canada win a medal in all five finals – three gold medals in the first three races, one silver and one bronze.
The Canadian women’s crew of Courtney Stott, Davison, Riley Melanson and Ottawa’s Toshka Besharah-Hrebacka had a strong start, moved into second place and owned it until the finish.
Davison and Besharah-Hrebacka were also representing the Rideau Canoe Club along with Madeline Schmidt, who is slated to race the women’s K-2 500-metre final with Stott on Saturday.
“Honestly, it was a good race. The Mexicans are a really solid crew and we have a competitive rivalry with them,” Davison told High Achievers in a phone interview. “It was disappointing not to get the gold, but at the same time, silver is awesome.
“We’re really proud and happy with the silver. We learned what to do for next year (2024 Paris Olympics). It’s a good motivator.”
Mexico covered the 500-metre course on the new Laguna Grande San Pedro de la Paz, Chile, course in one minute, 34.73 seconds, while the Canadian crew was 1.18 seconds back in 1:35.91. Argentina claimed the bronze medal in 1:36.79.
Unlike the other canoe sprint races at the Pan-Am Games, the women’s K-4 500 metres was a straight final with no heats or semifinals.
“It was kind of weird. We’re used to having a heat to get the pre-race jitters out and focus. This was one time, one go,” Davison added.
Instead of having a qualifying heat for the final, they had a hard morning workout on the water and a pre-race meeting before the final.
“Our start was good, but on the conservative side. It was the first time the crew had lined up. We didn’t have an opportunity to get used to it. We gave an all-out effort,” Davison continued.
Jensen, who competes for the Cascades Canoe Club, was nervous before her women’s C-1 200-metre final and the tension increased as the race starter held the paddlers in their starting positions longer than expected. There was some doubt.
“It’s something I have to work through,” she said. “On the course, I was racing against the world champion, after a (two-month) break in the season. Was I good enough to do well? I’m at a major Games that I haven’t gone to before.”
Her nerves showed early as she was slightly slower at the start of the sprint, but her determination and courage rose in the last half of the race. Jensen climbed out of fourth and surged into third for the bronze medal.
“I had a good race, but it has been a long season. I’m really stressed out,” Jensen added. “The people in the race were the ones you’d find in a final at senior worlds.”
World champion Yarisleidis Cirilo Duboy of Cuba, who raced in lane five with Jensen in lane four, controlled the 200-metre canoe race and finished in the gold-medal time of 45.87 seconds. Chile’s Mariajose Mailliard Rodriguez was second in 46.18 seconds and Jensen took third in 46.87 seconds.
Once back on land, Jensen had to halt her medal celebration, when she was called for a familiar doping test. She added she is tested by national officials about three or four times a month.
“It’s amazing (to win the bronze),” Jensen said. “I’m so honoured to represent Canada. It was great there were so many people in the stands. It was good to end the season on a high note.”
AMY MILLAR, TRUMAN PLACE 6TH IN SHOW JUMPING INDIVIDUAL FINAL
If Amy Millar of Perth and Truman had one less rail knockdown, which is equal to a four-point penalty, she would have won the bronze medal in equestrian show jumping’s individual competition. It would have given her a second medal at the Games.
Instead, she scored eight and four faults respectively in the competition’s fourth and fifth rounds, which left her with 17.71 penalty points for sixth place overall. In the first three rounds, she scored 1.71, four and zero points.
Millar was the leading rider for Canada on Wednesday, when it won the team silver medal.
Stephan De Freitas Barcha of Brazil had three clear rounds and won the individual gold medal with 8.06 points. The United States claimed the silver and bronze medals – Kent Farrington at 9.64 points and Mclain Ward at 15.34 points.
3 WINS PUT CANADA IN WOMEN’S RUGBY 7s MEDAL ROUND
Canada won all three of its pool matches in women’s rugby 7s and has advanced to Saturday’s scheduled semifinal against Colombia.
After posting shutout wins against Chile, 36-0, and Mexico, 69-0, Canada needed to rally from a 21-12 deficit in the second half for a 29-21 win over Brazil to complete its group play.
Ottawa forward Olivia De Couvreur scored Canada’s second try in its game against Chile.
On the men’s side, Canada also advanced to the semi-final round, after finishing its group play with a 2-1 record.
Canada defeated Brazil 22-12 and Mexico 42-5 before losing to the United States 19-5.
Ottawa’s Elias Hancock played in all three games for the Canadian men.
CANADIAN WATER POLO WOMEN MUST DEFEAT U.S.A. TO REACH 2024 OLYMPICS
Canada is one win away from qualifying for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics Games in women’s water polo, but it will be a difficult cross-border battle with the United States.
Meanwhile, the national men’s team missed an opportunity to qualify for the Paris Olympics at the Pan-Am Games, when it lost its semifinal on a goal late in the fourth quarter.
In its semifinal, the Canadian women’s side rolled past Brazil 21-4 and is scheduled to meet the U.S.A. in Saturday’s final, after the Americans defeated Argentina 27-1.
Goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault of Ottawa played just over eight minutes and didn’t allow a goal, stopping all three Brazilian shots she faced. Floranne Carroll, a former Capital Wave player now living in Montreal, had one goal off her only shot and was in the water for 19 minutes and 25 seconds.
After three preliminary and two playoff games, Canada has scored 124 goals for and only allowed 25 goals, while the U.S.A. is slightly better at 148 and five.
Reigning Olympic-champion and No. 3 world-ranked U.S.A. will be favoured in the final over no. 8 Canada.
The men’s semifinal was a tight affair as Canada managed three goals in each quarter and held a one-goal advantage after the second and third quarters.
But Gustavo Guimares scored the decisive goal on a power-play late in the fourth quarter to give Brazil a 13-12 victory. Aleksa Gardijan of Gatineau was serving his third field exclusion of the game when Guimares counted the winning goal.
Gardijan also was unable to score a goal off his five shots. Ottawa’s Bogdan Djerkovic notched one goal to give Canada a 9-7 lead, but was denied on his two other shots.
Canada is slated to play the loser of the United States-Argentina semifinal for the bronze medal on Saturday.
ERIC PETERS, VIRGINIE CHENIER OUT IN MIXED RECURVE TEAM QUARTERS
Eric Peters of Ottawa and Virginie Chenier were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the mixed recurve team competition.
After winning all three games and defeating Puerto Rico’s Adrian Munoz and Nilka Cotto 6-0 in the round of 16, Peters and Chenier fell to Colombia’s Jorge Enriquez and Ana Maria Rendon 6-2 by scores of 36-34, 35-38, 37-36, 37-36.
OTTAWA LIONS’ STEPHEN EVANS MISSES 800-METRE FINAL
Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club’s Stephen Evans placed fourth in his men’s 800-metre semifinal and missed qualifying for Saturday’s scheduled final.
Evans, who set a personal best time of 1:47.02 this summer, needed to finish in the top two to qualify automatically for the final. But his time of 1:48.98 left him a distant fourth as Jamaica’s Navasky Anderson won in 1:47.51.
The top two runners in each of the three semifinals determined six of the eight runners for the championship race. The last two qualifying spots went to the two fastest runners outside of the top two and Evans had the fourth-best time in that category.
CANADA REACHES MEN’S TABLE TENNIS TEAM SEMIFINALS
Canada won its second group match to finish first and added a quarter-final victory to qualify for the table tennis men’s team semifinals, which are slated for Saturday night. In its semifinal, Canada will play the winner of the United States-Peru quarterfinal.
Aurora, ON., resident Eugene Wang, who is formerly of Ottawa, captured his doubles matches with Simeon Martin by sweeping their best-of-five matches over the Independent Athletes Team in the round-robin and Ecuador in the quarters.
Canada defeated the Independent Athletes Team and Ecuador by identical 3-0 scores.
LILY-ROSE NOLET WINS 1 OF 3 KARATE MATCHES
Gatineau’s Lily-Rose Nolet posted a 1-2 record in her karate women’s 68-kilogram kumite division and missed advancing to the semifinals.
Nolet lost her opening match to the United States’ Kelara Madani 2-0, but rebounded to defeat Valerie Lorena Echever of Ecuador 8-3. She needed to win her final bout to make the semis, but lost 5-0 to Guadalupe Quintal of Mexico.
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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