Day 13 is over here in Rio and it appears as if someone forgot to tell our Canadian Olympians that 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number. Far from it indeed, we had a historic day on many fronts and added four shinny new medals to our total.
We started the day watching the Men’s Triathlon. The Brownlee brothers came into the day as the Vegas favourites to win. Having said that, this was a much tougher course then back in London and no Gold medalist has repeated (or defended their title) in the five Olympics since Triathlon’s debuted in the Olympics in Sydney back in 2000. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a triathlon and you simply could not find a more picturesque venue for a triathlon anywhere in the world. The organizers did a fantastic job setting up a course that was challenging but also easily accessible for spectators to watch. With the exception of a small grandstand at the finish/transition area, this was a non-ticketed (free) event for locals. We’ve read in some articles that Brazilians are not excited for these Games and yet what we witness day in and day out is the complete opposite. Today was no different. Estimates were that nearly a quarter of a million spectators lined the course and filled the beach today in order to cheer on the world’s best triathletes. Canada sent a very inexperienced team to the Olympics this time around (think of it as a re-building year for your favourite sports team). Each and every one of our male and female triathletes are first time Olympians. We had a top 15 finish for Tyler Mislawchuk but the real highlight of the day for us was watching how Andrew Yorke of Caledon, Ontario embodied the Olympic spirit and what it truly means to be the best at anything. It means that in the face of extreme adversity, in circumstances you have no control over, you must be strong and persevere. Many triathletes would have called it a day after the bike crash half way through the cycling portion of the race. Instead, Andrew pushed his biked uphill until he could get it repaired and then stuck in out essentially on his own for the rest of the race. Sadly, the Olympic triathlon curse continues for Canada. Sure, Simon Whitfield has had incredible success, multiple medals, etc. — but we sure do crash in Olympics. Nearly all of our women’s team in 2000 crashed (Carol Montgomery had also qualified for the 10,000m track event — the first to ever qualify in two separate sports at the same Games and she never even got to start due to a broken arm in the triathlon). In 2004 in Athens, arguably one of Canada’s top hopes for a medal was from Jill Savege, who crashed and ended up 39th. In 2008 (Beijing) Lauren Groves dropped out on the fifth lap of bike course in tears after a crash. Then in London (2012), Simon Whitfield, after winning gold in Sydney and a Silver in Beijing was closing out his legendary career and racing in likely his final race and surely his final Olympics ever. He was ready to add another piece of hardware to the collection and a big spoiler pick going into the race compared with the Brownlee brothers and Javier Gomes — many of you know how this ends too, sadly the Kingston native ended his Olympic career with a crashed and suffered a broken collar bone. Today, the curse struck Andrew Yorke. Let’s hope we’ve got this out of our system today and at the very least our talented squad of women can have a clean race and perform on the day in a way that reflects their true potential come Saturday morning.
After the triathlon was over, we made our way back to the Olympic Park in Barra. We had tickets to one of the Women’s Basketball Semi-Final games today and while we had hoped to cheer on our Canadian team, we did get to cheer on one very special Canadian! Edmonton’s Karen Lasuik is at her very first Olympic Games. She has pretty much done it all, except officiate at the Olympics. You name it, she’s been there. World Championships, other Major Games, Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, National Championship and the Women’s NCAA Tournament. Karen would be the first to tell you she isn’t getting any younger and that this was her last opportunity to officiate at an Olympic Games. The organization responsible for International Basketball (FIBA) does not allow International Officials to officiate after a certain age at that level. So, it was Rio or bust as far as the Olympic dream went for her. We’ve never met a more dedicated and driven individual than Karen and it is no surprise that this big dream and goal of hers became a reality. She spends countless hours working on her craft, striving for continuous improvement and helping those around her to achieve success. It is no surprise to us that she has been a standout star officiating in the women’s basketball tournament here in Rio. The semi-final tonight of USA vs. France was not an easy game, but she approached in with her unique brand of professionalism, grit and drive for perfection that is so admired by those who know her. Assignments happen for lots of different reasons. Politics are involved. The best don’t always advance. Neutrality is huge, language barriers, development opportunities, etc. all go into the mix. Having said that, we have tickets to the Gold Medal Women’s Game in two days time and we sure hope today was not the last day we get to cheer on Karen here in Rio. Oh, and by the way, in case you haven’t heard — the USA won the game easily and will play Spain for Gold!
What a great night for Canadian sport too. A huge medal haul today with four in total was exactly the type of day we’ve been hoping for. Andre de Grasse became the first Canadian to medal in both the 100m and 200m sprint in the same Olympics since Percy Williams in 1928 (Amsterdam). We got to watch Andre’s race in true Brazilian style, on the side of the road at one of the local juice shops in our neighbourhood. Meaghan Benfeito picked up her second bronze medal of the Games and as a result has multiple medals in every major games in the past three years (2016 Olympics – 2 / 2015 Pan Am Games – 2 / 2014 Commonwealth Games – 2). Our Canadian track all-star Damian Warner picked up a Bronze Medal in the Decathlon, proving once again that his star in on the rise. Not to be outdone, Erin Wiebe chalked up another medal for our Country and brought the total number of female medals won here in Rio to 14 of our 18.
Tomorrow we head to the ‘green’ pool for our first time seeing Diving (for the Men’s 10m Finals) and then over to basketball to watch Steve Seibel referee the Australia vs. Serbia Men’s Semi-Final Game. Should be a great day, with a few more potential medals, not the least of which is our Women’s Soccer squad.
More pictures below.