Buoyed by a strong round in show jumping, Canada climbed two spots in the medal standings to not only win Pan Am Games gold on Sunday but booked its spot in the equestrian eventing team competition at the Paris Olympics next summer.
Lindsay Traisnel (Maidstone, Ont.), Karl Slezak (Tottenham, Ont.), Toronto’s Michael Winter and Colleen Loach (Dunham, Que.) posted a narrow victory over the United States, which had previously earned an Olympic berth at the world championships last year in Italy.
“My horse is an exceptional jumper, so I knew that if I just did my job he would do his, and that is very confidence-inspiring going in,” said Loach, who posted two clear rounds on the day. “The qualification was our goal today and the rest was just icing on the cake.”
Brazil collected bronze on Sunday to claim the second of two Olympic spots that Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay were also pursuing. Traisnel also won individual bronze in show jumping behind Caroline Pamukcu of the United States and Brazil’s Márcio Jorge, but was most proud of the team accomplishment.
“It was definitely the most important part of our trip, getting that qualification, so we’re very happy to have done that,” Traisnel said.
Elsewhere, Slalom canoeist Lois Betteridge is a silver medallist at a second consecutive Pan Am Games.
The Ottawa native finished behind Ana Satila of Brazil in the women’s C1 final on Sunday in Santiago, Chile, four years after capturing silver in Lima. “I’m super stoked,” Betteridge told CBC Sports. “Obviously, it would have been nice if I had finished in first, but coming second behind Ana, who’s one of the best in the world, is pretty exciting.”
It was Canada’s 89th medal of these Games and 27th silver. Ana Paula Fernandes Castro of Paraguay earned bronze. The C1 are single-person canoes in which athletes kneel in the boat and use a single-bladed paddled to navigate the course.
Later Sunday, Betteridge added silver in the women’s kayak cross K1 final, won by Santila. Single-person kayaks (K1) require paddlers to sit in the boat using a double-bladed paddle. The 25-year-old Betteridge, an alternate at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games, hopes to early Olympic status in the coming months for Paris next year.
“I think it’s awesome,” she told OttawaSportsPages.ca recently about having kayak cross on the Paris Olympic canoe slalom calendar. “It’s a great spectator event.
“We were kind of told four to five years ago that it would be in Paris. It was confirmed three to four years ago and has attracted way more competitors who are getting faster and better.
Similar to ski cross and snowboard cross, kayak cross features four athletes (canoeists) pushing off a start line and battling from start to finish in a span of one minute.
Dunfee fell off pace at 7 km
Meanwhile, talk of another Canadian record or potential for Evan Dunfee to regain his Pan Am Games title had probably subsided before the midway mark of the men’s 20-kilometre race walk.
The Richmond, B.C., athlete had settled into fourth spot early on and a few metres from the leading trio but began to fall off the pace around the seven km mark. By 10 km, Dunfee was 14 seconds behind the leader in seventh and continued to lose ground, finishing ninth in one hour 22 minutes 14 seconds.
“I put myself in there with a chance, hoping for a miracle. It didn’t quite happen today,” he told The Canadian Press. “I’m proud of going through 10K in under 40 minutes [39:54]. It’s only the second time I’ve ever done that in a 10K race, Budapest [at the World Athletics Championships this past summer] being the first time. Today was a beneficial step toward Paris [and the Olympics].”
Dunfee, who began Sunday sixth in the men’s 20 km race walk world rankings, tore his left hamstring late in the 35 km event at worlds on Aug. 24. The recovery time was believed to be months, not weeks, but the two-time Olympian didn’t indicate the hamstring was a problem Sunday.
“Tale of two races this morning. Took it out hard knowing my fitness wasn’t quite there, given the recovery since worlds on my hamstring,” the three-time Canadian champion wrote in an Instagram story. “Sure enough, my fitness wasn’t quite there. Happy to fight through this one. Can’t be disappointed, all things considered.”
The 33-year-old, who was recently named race walk coach at the University of British Columbia — his alma mater —won the 20 km event at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and was fifth four years later in Lima.
At worlds in Hungary, Dunfee lowered the Canadian record to 1:18:03 in a fourth-place finish in the 20 km event, a marked that stood since 2016 when Inaki Gomez clocked 1:19:20. He was also fourth in the 35 km distance.
David Hurtado of Ecuador won Sunday’s competition in 1:19:20, four seconds ahead of world No. 2 Caio Bonfim of Brazil, the bronze medallist at this year’s worlds. Bronze on Sunday went to Mexico’s Andres Olivas (1:19:56).
Women’s times annulled due to ‘measuring problem’
Peru’s Kimberly Garcia thought she set the world record in the women’s 20 km race walk. She later found out she didn’t. Organizers of the largest multi-sports in the continent said in a statement the times of the race were annulled due to “a measuring problem” in Santiago’s O’Higgins Park. They blamed the Association of Pan American Athletics for the mistake.
Athletes believe the distance they ran in Chile was about three km shorter. Garcia finished her race in a cold and damp morning in one hour 12 minutes 26 seconds. The record belongs to China’s Jiayu Yang in 1:23:49. Eleven other competitors seemingly finished their race below the world record. Garcia still celebrated her gold medal. Organizers didn’t respond whether her result stands despite the measuring issue.
No Canadians were entered in the race. The Pan American Games organization said it filled its role by hiring Marcelo Ithurralde, an expert commissioned by the association, to take the measurements for the race.
“He did not take accurate measurements of the route the athletes took during the race,” organizers said. “We deeply regret the inconvenience for the athletes, their coaches, the public and the attending press, but this situation cannot be attributed to the Organizing Committee.”