Canada racks up 8 medals, including 4 gold, at Pan Am Games
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, July 11, 2015 12:34PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 11, 2015 9:47PM EDT
Canada didn’t waste any time jumping out ahead in the standings by capturing eight medals on the first full day of competition at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
The host country won three gold medals on Saturday, and one on Friday, to take an early lead. Canada has taken the top spot in men's BMX, women's K-4 500 metres kayaking, as well as duet and team synchronized swimming. Podium finishes in women's 10-metre platform diving, men's three-metre springboard and women's 52-kilogram judo also saw the country haul in an additional two silver and two bronze medals.
Bronze in diving
TORONTO -- Canadian divers had a successful start to the Pan American Games with three medals on the opening day of competition.
Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., won silver in the women's 10-metre platform on Saturday, while Montreal's Meaghan Benfeito took bronze.
Earlier, Montreal's Philippe Gagne won bronze medal in the men's three-metre springboard.
Filion scored 377.60 points, finishing just 5.6 points behind gold medallist Paola Espinosa of Mexico. Benfeito took bronze with 357.45 points.
Filion scored 79.20 points with her fourth dive -- the best result of the round -- to move into second place. She finished with a score of 80.00 on her fifth dive to hold off Benfeito.
It was a different story for Benfeito, who opened with a score of 81.60 and led through the first three round before fading. Still, her strong start was enough to earn a medal.
In men's competition, Gagne totalled 421.20 points over his six dives.
"I'm extremely happy with the result," said Gagne. "It was one of my goals here -- even if I wasn't sure I could get it (a medal) -- so to see that this dream is finally real, it's really amazing."
His last dive earned him 89.25 points and moved him from sixth into third.
"This result will help me build my confidence," said Gagne, who finished eighth in Friday's preliminaries. "Yesterday, after the preliminaries my level of confidence was getting low, so this result will really help me."
Mexico's Rommel Pacheco won gold with a total score of 483.35, while teammate Jahir Ocampo was second with 442.15.
Francois Imbeau-Dulac of St-Lazare, Que., was sixth with 398.40 points.
Nyhaug cruises to victory
TORONTO - Canadian cyclist Tory Nyhaug has won a gold medal in men's BMX at the Pan American Games.
Nyhaug finished first in an unofficial time of 36.208 seconds.
Alfredo Campo Vintimilla of Ecuador was second. Carlos Alberto Ramirez Yepes of Colombia took the bronze.
Ticket to Rio
TORONTO -- When the music stopped, and their score flashed up, Canadians Jacqueline Simoneau and Karine Thomas finally succumbed to the emotions.
The synchronized swimmers are Rio-bound.
Simoneau and Thomas won gold in duet at the Pan American Games on Saturday, to secure their spot in next summer's Rio Olympics, then promptly broke down in tears.
"I had all the emotions going through my head, flashbacks to when I was a little kid just dreaming of going to the Olympic Games," Simoneau said. "And now this dream has finally almost come true, and I don't really know how to react about it."
The 18-year-old from Saint-Laurent, Que., and Thomas, 26, from Gatineau, Que., leaders after the technical program, scored 178.0881 for the gold.
The duo collected their second gold of the day when Canada won the team event. Simoneau and Thomas, along with Gabriella Brisson, Annabelle Frappier, Claudia Holzner, Lisa Mikelberg, Marie-Lou Morin, Samantha Nealon, and Lisa Sanders scored 178.1094 for the victory.
Mexico came second with the United States in third.
The Pan Ams aren't an Olympic qualifier for the team event.
Simoneau and Thomas did numerous sports growing up. Simoneau eventually narrowed her choices down to diving and synchro -- she had a diary that listed the pros and cons of both sports -- and was finally forced to choose when she was scheduled to compete in both on the same day.
Thomas, whose parents were both national team water polo players -- her dad Ian would have competed at the 1980 Olympics had it not been for the boycott -- fell in love with synchro when she was watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
"I thought it was just amazing, and never looked back since," Thomas said.
Simoneau is a rising star in the sport, joining the national team in 2012. Thomas is the only holdover from the team that finished fourth at the London Olympics that same year. The two were paired together after a series of tests by Synchro Canada.
"It's a happy match between us," said Thomas. "We haven't been working together that long but I think we've grown quite a bit, especially in the last year. We're just a really good duet.
"We are very matter of fact, very business when we are in the water. We just know exactly what to do but when we're out of the water, we get along great as well. She's one of my best buddies so I honestly couldn't ask for a better person to do this with."
Wearing lime green swimsuits, their hair shellacked back in tight buns, the Canadians brought the flag-waving home crowd at the jam-packed CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatic Centre to its feet.
"There were a little bit of nerves but I think overall we were very excited and having the crowd behind us is just amazing," Thomas said. "Feeling their support, you can't ask for anything better as an athlete."
In the crowd, Thomas's mother Martine Valin and Simoneau's mom Linda South leapt from their seats and hugged.
"We were so excited and happy for them, we both had the tears were running down," South said.
"Before we both looked over at each other, gave each other a thumbs up, like 'This is it,"' Thomas added. "So after they were done it was like, 'Phew, what a relief."'
The moms plan to be in Rio to watch their daughters go for Olympic gold -- "We're already planning our trip," South said.
Karem Achach and Nuria Diosdado of Mexico were second in the duet with 170.7800, while Mariya Koroleva and Alison Williams of the United States won the bronze with 166.3876.
Canada swept the synchro gold medals at the Pan Ams four years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Canada has fared well in the sport at this event, winning seven gold, 23 silver and three bronze overall -- second only to the U.S.
Canada also won its first medal of the Pan American Games on Friday -- a gold in women's kayaking.
The Canadian crew finished first in the K-4 500 metres in one minute 36.495 seconds.
Cuba finished second followed by Argentina.
Michelle Russell of Fall River,N.S., Emilie Fournel of Montreal, KC Fraser of Oakville, Ont., and Hannah Vaughan of Dartmouth, N.S., edged the Cubans by 1.17 seconds.
"I can't describe it," said an overwhelmed Russell. "I can't find the words to describe how it feels to win gold, in the Pan Am Games, in Toronto, on home soil, the very first medal. I can't."
The race was the first final of the Games, which officially opened Friday in Toronto.
"We always race at this course but today was a really special occasion," said Fraser. "There was more family, more everybody. Everybody's here to watch what we do and it's great. I think just today, on home soil, made it that much more special."
It's a promising start for the Canadian team, which has set a goal of finishing in the top two in the overall medal count.
Canadian chef de mission Curt Harnett has estimated the host team of 719 athletes needs to rake in about 200 medals over the 16 days of competition to hit that target.