Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC
Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC

Day 5 at Santiago 2023: Mac Neil makes history, badminton gold rush

Day 5 was a memorable one at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.

Maggie Mac Neil made Canadian history, Team Canada’s badminton players put on a show, paths to Paris were shored up, and 18 additional medals were added to the Canadian collection.

Here are some of today’s top stories:

Swimming: Fifth gold medal for Maggie Mac Neil

Canada finished off the competition in the pool with five more medals on Day 5, bringing the swimming total to 25.

Sydney Pickrem and Mary-Sophie Harvey started off Canada’s final medal push, going 1-2 in the women’s 200m individual medley. Pickrem swam to gold in a Pan American record time of 2:09.04. Harvey followed in 2:11.92.

It’s a testament to the extraordinarily high bar that Team Canada’s swimmers hold for themselves that when asked about the race, Pickrem admitted sheepishly that she was “a little bit disappointed with the time.” She added that such high standards are part of the reason all team members are each other’s best hype squad, so that no one gets too in their own head.

This is the third Pan American record set by a Canadian swimmer in Santiago, with Maggie Mac Neil re-writing the record books in both the women’s 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle.

On the men’s side, Finlay Knox was also golden in the 200m individual medley, swimming to the top of the podium in a time of 1:58.74, ahead of Arsenio Bustos of the USA and Leonardo Coelho of Brazil.

“This is my first international win, so I’m very happy with that,” Knox said. “But the biggest win is just overcoming the mental stuff. It’s October, just coming off of summer break, you have that voice in your head telling you every excuse for why you can’t win and you just have to tell it ‘watch this!’ and go in there and prove that little voice in your head wrong.”

Then came the moment every Team Canada fan was waiting for: the final of the women’s 4x100m medley relay. Danielle Hanus, Rachel Nicol, Mac Neil and Harvey combined for gold in a time of 3:58.76.

That victory brought Mac Neil’s gold medal count up to five in Santiago — the most gold medals ever won by a Canadian athlete at a single Pan Am Games.

READ: Magnificent Maggie Mac Neil makes Canadian history at the Pan Am Games

“It’s so special and obviously there was pressure on myself to do well. But I also wanted to represent Panam Sports well as they chose me [to be a Games Ambassador] originally back a year ago so I definitely wanted to do them proud, and obviously Canada as well,” Mac Neil said.

It was Mac Neil’s seventh medal overall, as it was for Harvey, who swam in eight races over the last five days. No Canadian woman has ever won more medals at one edition of the Pan Am Games.

“I kept bugging the coaches to put me last in the relay because I wanted to have that pressure,” Harvey said post-race, “It was extra hard for me because I had the 200 IM [early in the session], and the last 50 really hurt. I had to tell myself: ‘it’s time to step up for Canada!'”

Sophie Angus, Brooklyn Douthwright, Katerine Savard and Maddy Gatrall swam for Canada in the preliminary heat. Silver went to the USA and bronze to Mexico.

The Canadian men followed up with a bronze medal in their 4x100m medley relay. Blake Tierney, Gabe Mastromatteo, Knox and Javier Acevedo swam to a time of 3:35.72 behind Team USA and Team Brazil. Raben Dommann, Brayden Taivassalo, Stephen Calkins and James Dergousoff swam for Canada in the preliminary heat.

Badminton: Quadruple gold for Team Canada

It was an action-packed day for badminton with four (!) chances for Canadians to snag gold. And they didn’t disappoint.

Catherine Choi and Josephine Wu delivered first, defeating the American team of Annie Xu and Kerry Xu 2-1 (21-18, 10-21, 21-17).

“This win means everything. They’re our biggest competitors for the Olympic qualification spot, so this is a huge boost in confidence,” Wu said post-match.

It wasn’t long before gold number two of the day was secured by Adam Dong and Nyl Yakura in the men’s doubles. Dong and Yakura battled against the Brazilian team, winning 2-1 (19-21, 21-15, 21-18). This is Yakura’s second straight Pan Am gold, having won the title at Lima 2019 with his then-partner, Jason Ho-Shue. The victory was extra meaningful for Dong, who came out of retirement to partner up with Yakura.

“It means a lot. I was retired for six, seven years and came back. It took a lot physically and mentally to prepare for this. I had a severe injury a couple months ago that I’m still recovering from and my recent performance isn’t as good as before — also our ranking dropped a lot. So, this shows we’re still at the top,” Dong said.

Keeping the streak alive for Canada’s third badminton gold of the day, Brian Yang defeated Guatemalan Kevin Cordón (representing the Independent Athletes Team) in two straight games (21-18, 21-6).

“It’s a really big redemption tournament for me,” Yang said, “Not only getting the silver last time and now being able to get the gold, but a lot of the opponents I faced in this tournament I had lost to in our last meeting. It’s just a really huge confidence booster.”

Canada’s final chance for gold came in mixed doubles with Wu suiting up again, this time with Ty Lindeman. The Canadian duo came out on top 2-1 (17-21,21-17,21-19) after a hard-fought battle with the American team.

“I think the biggest thing was just us holding it together because in the past I think we’ve struggled with tight games,” Wu said. “I think it means a lot for us to have been up, then lose our lead, but then hold it together to the end and win it.”

Shooting: Olympic quota spot secured

Shannon Westlake earned a bronze medal and secured a Paris 2024 quota spot for Canada in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions event. She shot a score of 446.5 to finish behind a pair of Americans, who have already earned the maximum of two Olympic spots in the event. Eight years ago, Westlake had finished 18th in her first major multi-sport games at the Toronto 2015 Pan Ams. Now she’s on the podium.

“All of the work that I’ve put in and all of the people that have supported me…it was just so nice to have it all come together today,” Westlake said through happy tears, “I’m just ecstatic.”

Diving: Silvers for Zsombor-Murray, Ware and Vallée

In her interview yesterday after winning her second medal in Santiago, Pamela Ware hinted there would be more to come — and today she delivered with a silver medal in the 3m synchro springboard event with teammate Mia Vallée.

The duo finished with a score of 280.65, placing them behind the Mexican team who earned 285.48 and ahead of the Americans who posted 279.06.

Nathan Zsombor-Murray claimed silver in the men’s 10m platform with a score of 476.15, sandwiched between two Mexican divers. Team Canada teammate Rylan Wiens, who is competing for the first time since May after dealing with neck and back injuries for much of the year, was narrowly held off the podium, finishing fourth.

Artistic Gymnastics: Bronze for Dolci, Stewart, Cournoyer

The last day of artistic gymnastics saw three bronze medals added to Canada’s total. One went to Felix Dolci, who scored 14.383 in the vault final to finish behind Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic and Arthur Mariano of Brazil. The 21-year-old from Laval has had a dream week, with five medals to his name in Santiago, including a silver in the team event, gold in the all-around, gold on floor exercise, and bronze on rings.

“Going first in a final obviously isn’t an advantage because all the other competitors can see your performance, see your score and adapt themselves — same goes for the judges. But I went on vault really confident,” Dolci said afterwards.

Felix Dolci of Canada receives his bronze medal during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games. Photo by Candice Ward/COC

Ava Stewart also secured a bronze medal for Team Canada, scoring 13.900 in the beam final to place behind a pair of Brazilian stars, Rebeca Andrade and Flavia Saraiva. Stewart had the highest difficulty score in the final.

“The reason I took my teammate up there on the podium with me after I realized I’d won a medal was because I couldn’t do this without my team. It would be impossible,” Stewart said post-competition. She was also a part of the Canadian women’s team who won bronze in the team event.

René Cournoyer kept the streak of bronze medals going, finishing third on the horizontal bar with a score of 14.066 to close out the artistic gymnastics competition for Team Canada.

“It’s a great completion of the Pan Am Games. We won a medal in almost every event. We had a great competition as a team and it showed in the results,” Cournoyer said afterwards.

Track Cycling: Gold for team pursuit

At the velodrome, Team Canada’s women’s team pursuit squad of Devaney Collier, Fiona Majendie, Kiara Lylyk and Ruby West pushed to gold in a head-to-head battle against Team Mexico.

“The opportunity to win a gold medal is always a motivation,” West said, “We were all pretty tired before this ride but as soon as you get out there you know what’s on the line and you can dig as deep as possible.”

Kiara Lylyk, Fiona Majendie, Devaney Collier and Ruby West of Canada pose with their gold medals in the Women’s Track Cycling Team Pursuit finals during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. Photo by Thomas Skrlj/COC

Rowing: Bronze for Brien and De Paiva

Alizée Brien and Shaye De Paiva secured Team Canada’s first medal of Day 5 with a bronze in the women’s double sculls. The duo raced to a time of 7:13.14, placing behind the American and Chilean boats. It is the third medal in Santiago for both women, who won gold together in the eight and bronze in the quad sculls.

Alizée Brien and Shaye De Paiva pose with their bronze medals at the Santiago 2023 Pan Am Games. Credit: Rowing Canada

Other Team Canada News

  • Boxers Junior Petanqui (71kg) and Wyatt Sanford (63.5kg) both won their quarterfinal bouts to advance to the semifinals, guaranteeing them each a medal. 
  • Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson won their beach volleyball quarterfinal in straight sets against Puerto Rico. They’ll play in the semis on Thursday
  • The Canadian men’s racquetball team won their semifinal 2-1 against Mexico and will play for gold on Thursday.
Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes carry the Canadian flag in front of their teammates

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