By Martin Cleary
The 19th Pan-American Games in Santiago, Chile, were an immense festival of traditional, unique and some unfamiliar sports.
The two-week continental competitions and a selection of Olympic qualifying events featured 423 sets of medals awarded in 39 sports and 61 disciplines for about 7,000 athletes.
Keeping track of the 473 Canadian athletes, who were supported by 235 coaches and support staff, was an endless task. For the OttawaSportsPages.ca market, High Achievers focused on the 28 Ottawa and regional athletes, who performed well and earned two gold, seven silver and nine bronze medals.
We tracked and wrote about all the Ottawa and regional athletes in individual and team sports and were able to contact one or two a day through the Canadian Olympic Committee’s team of media attaches.
From my experience, it’s always easier to cover a major Games in-person as you see each sporting event live, talk to the athlete at the moment, get comments from coaches and team officials and just observe what’s around you.
There were three stories High Achievers touched on during the Games that need to be revisited and expanded upon.
After winning a silver medal in equestrian show jumping’s team event, Amy Millar of Perth was glowing inside. On the third and final day of the individual competition, she was heartbroken because an unexpected, late-falling rail cost her a bronze medal.
Gatineau’s Hana Furumoto-Deshaies had designated her 2023 karate season as the “pinnacle of her career,” as she was aiming for heartwarming results at the world championships and the Pan-Am Games in October. Unfortunately for her, an arm injury forced her to withdraw from both major international competitions. Watching her peers compete in Santiago was difficult.
Archery’s Eric Peters of Ottawa seemed to be on target for something special at the Games. A medal? Qualifying a second men’s individual recurve berth for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games? In the end, he followed a strong ranking round with early exits in the individual men’s, mixed team and men’s team competitions. Not being the underdog was a new role for him.
A FALLEN RAIL, A BRONZE DENIED, A BROKEN HEART
The equestrian show jumping individual competition was based on the results of four rounds on four different courses. Millar was positioned well after the first two rounds at 1.71 points and four points for an aggregate score of 5.71 points. She had two late knock downs in her third round for eight faults and an aggregate 13.71 points, but she was still in the running for a medal.
Her fourth and final round appeared to be clear for zero points, an unchanged aggregate of 13.71 points and a potential bronze medal.
But about two seconds before she and Truman crossed the timer finish line, a rail from an earlier jump hit the ground with a thud. At the 4b jump, Truman had rubbed the oxer, but it sat on the edge of the holding cups.
Millar and Truman were successful on their final eight jump efforts, but when they reached the round’s final obstacle, the 4b rail suddenly hit the ground, which meant four faults and a final aggregate score of 17.71 points.
A video review confirmed they were still competing at the time the rail fell. International rules dictated Millar was still responsible for that fallen rail. If the rail had fallen two seconds later, when Millar and Truman had passed through the timer, there would have been no four-point fault and she would have won the bronze medal.
“Today was a difficult day for our team,” Millar told Horse Sport. “When I was one stride from jump 10, the front rail of 4b came out of the cups and for this I received four faults. I have never lost this way before.
“I congratulate (American) McLain (Ward), he is undeniably an incredible athlete and I understand that with the way the rules are written he is the rightful bronze medallist. I congratulate all the medal winners today.
“However, I am deeply disappointed. Truman gave it his all out there and we all believed he jumped a clear round. It is especially disappointing because the result was the loss of a medal for Canada. This one will hurt for a while.”
WHEN YOU CAN’T COMPETE, YOU SUPPORT YOUR TEAMMATES
Trying to follow Hana Furumoto-Deshaies on her scheduled karate competition day was confusing. She was slated to have four round-robin bouts in the women’s 55-kilogram kumite division, but every posted score on the Games website showed 0-0. And the standings indicated the Gatineau athlete was last in her pool with four losses and no wins.
Something was up, but Sportcom’s Luc Turgeon made sense of the matter in his daily report.
Two days before her scheduled competition, Furumoto-Deshaies withdrew from the Games because of a pre-existing arm injury. The same injury prevented her from competing at the world championships two weeks earlier.
By stepping out of the worlds, she was hoping her injury would improve enough to allow her to compete at the Pan-Am Games. But while her arm was improving, it wasn’t fast enough to permit her to fight her matches.
“A decision had to be made,” she said. “I talked to the medical staff and my family … I talked to myself, too, to see what was most important to me,” she told Sportcom.
“Every day it got better. I tried my best to recover and return on time. There was a lot of frustration, disappointment, but I was still motivated to come here. To realize that I wouldn’t compete, it was really difficult. I won’t hide it.”
Furumoto-Deshaies remained part of the Games by training with her teammates and encouraging them during their matches.
“I do karate to develop personally and become the best person I can be, not just in my sport,” she added. “It was really important to me and it happened suddenly. I think I’m so good at having handled the situation the way I did and it demonstrates all the progress I’ve made on myself.”
BEING A TARGETED ARCHER A BRAND-NEW EXPERIENCE
Ottawa’s Eric Peters entered the Pan-Am Games feeling like he had a target on his back rather than being an underdog as the men’s individual recurve silver medallist from this summer’s world archery championships in Berlin.
He had earned Canada a quota spot in men’s individual recurve for the 2024 Paris Olympics by winning the world silver medal and he or another Canadian had the opportunity to grab a second Summer Games placing with a top-two individual result at the Pan-Am Games.
He started the Games with a strong ranking score of 675 points, which left him sixth overall. But he couldn’t transfer that marksmanship to his three different competitions. Instead, he had three early exits – quarterfinals in both the men’s and mixed team draws and the round of 16 in the individual men’s event.
Peters, the 2019 Pan-Am Games individual bronze medallist, found having a different status at his second Pan-Am Games was a bit daunting.
“I felt sort of relaxed and really comfortable coming in here, but this tournament was a first for me in an expectations sort of way,” Peters said in an Archery Canada media release.
“It’s a new experience being in that position as compared to being sort of an underdog, so I don’t think I was as prepared for that as I thought I might have been.
“I’m coming away from here not upset, but a little bit disappointed. I’d say this was the best qualifying I had all year. I feel like I shot it fairly well, so that’s probably the highlight – just learning to seed myself better than I had in the past.”
OTTAWA AND REGION PAN-AM GAMES MEDALLISTS
As a final note, here’s the list of Ottawa and region medallists from the Santiago Pan-Am Games:
· Julie Brousseau, Nepean, swimming, gold, women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay; gold, women’s 400-metre individual medley; bronze, women’s 200-metre freestyle relay;
· Kate Miller, Nepean, diving, silver, women’s synchronized 10-metre;
· Lois Betteridge, Ottawa, canoe slalom, silver, women’s slalom C-1; silver, women’s kayak cross;
· Amy Millar, Perth, equestrian, silver, show jumping team;
· Natalie Davison and Toshka Besharah-Hrebacka, both Ottawa, canoe sprint, silver, women’s K-4 500 metres;
· Olivia De Couvreur, Ottawa, women’s rugby 7s, silver;
· Jessica Gaudreault, Ottawa, and Floranne Carroll, Ottawa and Montreal, women’s water polo, silver;
· Eugene Wang, Aurora, ON., and Ottawa, table tennis, silver, men’s team event; bronze, mixed doubles; bronze, men’s singles;
· Frédérique Sgarbossa, Gatineau, artistic gymnastics, bronze, women’s artistic team all-around;
· Maël Rivard, Ottawa, canoe slalom, bronze, men’s slalom K-1;
· Sophia Jensen, Chelsea, canoe sprint, bronze, women’s C-1 200 metres;
· Madeline Schmidt, Ottawa, canoe sprint, bronze, women’s K-2 500 metres;
· Elias Hancock, Ottawa, men’s rugby 7s, bronze.
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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