Day 2 at Santiago 2023: Women lead the way as Team Canada captures five gold medals
Add another 12 medals to Team Canada’s total at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.
Day 2 saw some big breakthroughs by a few rising stars, a double podium in diving, a Pan Am Games record in the swimming pool, and a gold medal thriller in taekwondo for a Canadian who felt like she had a home crowd behind her.
Let’s take a quick look at some of today’s headlines:
Skateboard: Gold for Team Canada’s youngest athlete
From the get-go of the women’s park event, Fay De Fazio Ebert had her hands on the gold medal. In the first of her three runs, of which only the highest score would count, she received 82.71 points from the judges. That would have held up as the winning run, except that she surpassed herself with her second run, scoring 84.66 points. She is the first ever Pan Am Games champion in skateboard park as the sport is debuting at Santiago 2023.
The closest anyone got to the talented 13-year-old was another teenager, 16-year-old Brazilian Raicca Ventura de Oliveira, who stepped up to grab the silver with her final run. But she was still more than two points back of De Fazio Ebert with her best score of 82.54. American Bryce Wettstein took the bronze with 79.95 points.
The victory was a bit of an upset for the youngest member of Team Canada in Santiago. She was coming off a disappointing performance at the World Skate Park World Championships in Rome where she didn’t advance from the qualification round. Ventura de Oliveira had finished fourth at those worlds while Wettstein also had a top-10 performance.
“I performed the way I wanted to,” an almost speechless De Fazio Ebert said after receiving her gold medal. “I was coming from Italy and I didn’t really do the best. I wanted to feel proud of myself but I didn’t because I didn’t get in my full run. And I was just like I don’t want to feel that way here. I want to feel hyped with my friends.”
And hyped they were. As soon as the event was finished, all of the competitors gathered together in a celebratory group hug. De Fazio Ebert also had a memento with her from one of her friends back home. She competed with a white feather in her helmet that came from her pet duck, Richard.
Swimming: More gold for Mac Neil and Harvey
Team Canada earned four more medals in the pool on Sunday, adding to the four won on Day 1.
Maggie Mac Neil won gold in the 100m butterfly in a Pan Am Games record time of 56.94 seconds, erasing a mark that had been set eight years ago at Toronto 2015. Mac Neil is no stranger to standing atop the podium in her specialty event, having won Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 following her gold medal at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships. It was in her Olympic victory that she set her personal best time in the event of 55.59 seconds (also a Canadian and Americas region record), which is just 0.11 shy of the world record.
“In that race (my goal) was just to get the win,” said Mac Neil. “One of the only titles I don’t have yet so I definitely felt the pressure from myself to get it, but I’m really happy with that.”
The afternoon of finals had started with Mary-Sophie Harvey winning gold in the women’s 200m freestyle in a time of 1:58.08. She edged out silver medallist Maria Da Silva Costa of Brazil by 0.04 of a second. It was extra special to her as it is her first ever individual gold medal after years of representing Canada. However, it didn’t come without some drama.
“I have to say, my heart rate was probably a 200 because in the ready room my suit ripped, so I had to run and put on this new suit in less than five minutes,” said Harvey. “So I didn’t really feel anything the first 50, my heart rate was just going off. But it was really good.” She was just a third of a second off her personal best time in the event.
Before the night was done, Mac Neil and Harvey were key to Canada’s bronze medal in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay. Finlay Knox and Javier Acevedo had the team in fourth place after the first two legs before Mac Neil jumped in and powered her way into the podium position that Harvey was able to hold onto.
A little earlier, Hugh McNeill earned his first major international medal, taking bronze in the men’s 200m backstroke behind a pair of Americans.
Taekwondo: Park wins long-awaited gold in her second home
After just missing the top step of the podium four years ago at Lima 2019, Skylar Park was determined that this time a Pan Am Games gold medal would be hers.
She advanced through her 57kg quarterfinal with ease, but then had to come back from dropping the first round of her semifinal against Panama’s Carolena Carstens Salceda to get the 2-1 win. The gold medal bout against Brazilian Maria Clara Pacheco was also a tight one. In the deciding third round, they were tied at 15 points apiece, but Pacheco had accumulated three Gam-jeon (penalties) to Park’s one, giving the Canadian the gold medal.
“I’m part Chilean and having my grandparents and my family from here in the stands, it means everything to me. I’ve been having a few good tournaments leading up to this. I’m excited to end it off with this,” said Park. “Being Canadian but having the Chilean crowd on my side meant a lot and it really got me through that last match.”
Her victory comes a day after younger brother Tae-Ku won bronze in the men’s 68kg event.
Diving: Ware and Vallée go 1-2 on 1m springboard
Pamela Ware and Mia Vallée took the top two steps of the podium in the women’s 1m springboard. Ware won the gold medal with 280.25 points while Vallée finished 7.95 points back for the silver. Through the first three rounds, it was Vallée who held onto top spot, but she had a tough time with her fourth dive, a back 1 1/2 somersault in pike position, which dropped her down below her teammate and synchro partner.
The two Canadian women were the class of the field, with American Hailey Hernandez finishing more than 10 points behind Vallée for the bronze medal. This summer, Ware had finished fourth in the 1m event at the World Aquatics Championships. This is her fourth career Pan Am Games medal, but her first time competing in the 1m event. Vallée is competing at the Pan Ams for the first time.
“I haven’t been doing 1m for that long, this is my second international competition in the last 12 years, so it’s really exciting to come out on top,” said Ware. “I came in tonight with a really good mindset and I was so focused on doing everything well and I’m really proud of what I did today.”
Rylan Wiens and Nathan Zsombor-Murray won silver in the men’s 10m synchro event. It was their first competition together since May. Wiens has been battling neck and back injuries for most of the season, which prevented them from competing as a duo at the World Aquatics Championships this summer. Last year they had won bronze at the world championships.
“Really it was like riding a bike, we got back up there and it was pretty easy to sync up and I’m very glad of the way it went,” said Zsombor-Murray.
BMX Racing: Sterling silver for Simpson
Molly Simpson may have been the youngest competitor in the women’s BMX final, but she showed why she’s a rising star of the sport. The 20-year-old found herself caught near the back of the eight-woman pack out of the gate, but was able to make the right move at the right time to get herself into second place, which she held onto for the rest of the race that lasted just half a minute.
“Honestly, I think that was the craziest race I’ve ever raced. Came out of lane five, decent start, and just tried to get over but there was quite carnage and people hitting tires,” said Simpson. “I did my best to get out of that and hold second spot.”
The only woman to beat her was an absolute legend of the sport, Colombian Mariana Pajon, who Simpson herself has looked up to as a role model, not just for her success but for her humbleness and kindness.
“She’s my idol,” Simpson said of the woman who won back-to-back Olympic gold medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016 before a silver medal at Tokyo 2020. “Placing behind her is just amazing. It shows that I’m almost there and I just gotta keep working and I’m just really enjoying it.”
The only other Canadian to win a BMX medal at the Pan Am Games is Tory Nyhaug, who won gold in the men’s event at Toronto 2015.
Weightlifting: More hardware for Maude
Olympic champion Maude Charron will be heading home from Santiago with her first Pan Am Games medal. She won the silver in the women’s 59kg event, coming just two kilos shy of the victory.
Charron lifted 101kg in the snatch and 125kg in the clean and jerk for a grand total of 226kg. Colombia’s Yenny Fernanda Alvarez Caicedo, who placed fifth at the world championships in September, lifted one more kilo in each for a total of 228kg to claim the gold medal. Venezuela’s Anyelin Maria Venegas Valera took the bronze with 222kg.
The competition in Santiago was full of challenges for Charron.
“I woke up a kilo over my body weight, so I had two hours to lose it, so it was a rough start today. We started (at) lower (weights) for my attempts due to an injury that I’m battling for the past year and couldn’t really train with it for the past eight months,” said Charron, who did not compete at the recent worlds. “We started lower and made bigger jumps and used the third attempts a little bit more with strategy and what we needed to place. The medal is just the cherry on top.”
This is still a relatively new weight class for Charron, who won her Olympic gold at 64kg. But that event has been dropped from the program for Paris 2024, so Charron has had to drop her body weight by five kilos. She won bronze at the 2022 World Championships, which was her first international competition at 59kg.
Artistic Gymnastics: Bronze for women’s team
Finally, Team Canada’s women’s artistic gymnastics team won bronze, finishing behind the United States and Brazil. Aurélie Tran and Ava Stewart have advanced to the individual all-around final. Stewart was the top qualifier for the beam final in which Tran will also compete. Both women also qualified for the uneven bars final, while Tran and Sydney Turner will compete in the floor exercise final. Cassie Lee and Frédérique Sgarbossa rounded out the squad.
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