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Canada gets first rowing medal of Tokyo Olympics


TOKYO — Victoria's Caileigh Filmer says it was a combination of physical effort and heart that earned Canada its first rowing medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Filmer and her partner Hillary Janssens of Surrey, B.C., took bronze Thursday in the women's pair after a gutsy performance that won Canada its first medal in the event since Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle won gold at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Janssens said the medal was all the more meaningful because Heddle died of cancer at age 55 in January, while McBean is serving as the country's chef de mission in Tokyo.

"That's so special," she said. "I'm so glad to be able to do that. Especially in memory of Kathleen ... thinking about her family, and obviously Marnie's here and I hope Marnie watched that and is proud.

"Two of the most amazing Canadian athletes and we're so happy to continue their legacy."

The 2018 world champions finished behind New Zealand's Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler (6:50.19) and the Russian Olympic Committee's Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia (6:51.45).

The B.C.-based pair led after 500 and 1,000 metres, and sat second with a quarter of the race to go before hanging on for bronze late with a hard-charging boat from Britain on their tail.

After crossing the finish line and seeing their time on the scoreboard, a visibly spent Janssens collapsed backwards into the arms of Filmer, who slumped forward in exhaustion.

"The first 1,000 (metres) was about being physical," Filmer said. "And the second half was about rowing with our heart.

"I'm just proud."

The rowing bronze increased Canada's streak of days with at least one medal in Tokyo to five. With two gold, three silver and five bronze overall, Canada is 12th in both the official and overall medal tables.

China moved back into first overall in the medal standings with 15 gold, seven silver and nine bronze. Host Japan also has 15 gold, along with four silver and sic bronze, to sit second.

The Unites States has the most total medals with 38, including 14 gold.

While Canada's female swimmers have been on a medal streak, their momentum wasn't enough to carry them to the podium in the women's 4x200-metre relay. 

The team of Summer McIntosh, Kayla Sanchez, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak set a new Canadian record, but finished fourth behind China, the United States and Australia. 

A medal in the event would have made the 21-year-old Oleksiak Canada's most decorated Olympian of all-time. Her next chance comes Friday morning (Thursday evening in Canada) when she defends her gold in the 100-metre freestyle.  

"I think we're definitely disappointed we missed the podium, but we knew it was going to be a tough race," said Oleksiak, who anchored the relay only an hour and a half after swimming her 100-metre semifinal.

"We all swam the best we could so that's all you can really ask for. You can't be disappointed with a Canadian record."

Canadian judoka Shady El-Nahas had a chance to win Canada's third judo bronze medal of the Tokyo Olympics, but fell just short after losing his bronze-medal match in the men's 100-kilogram division.

The 23-year-old from Mississauga defeated Israel's Peter Paltchik by ippon to advance to the medal round, but lost to Jorge Fonseca of Portugal by waza-ari.

Fonseca, weeks away from winning his second world title in June, appeared to lack energy for much of the match and was assessed an early penalty for ducking under an El-Nahas attack.

The Portuguese veteran later showed his trademark quickness, however, landing a scoring throw at the 3:24 mark.

"One mistake and it ruins your whole day. That's what happened,” El-Nahas said.

Fonseca was given a second penalty for an ill-timed attack, making for a tense final 26 seconds. But he held on for the win, countering a promising El-Nahas throw attempt in the final seconds.

As of Thursday morning, all 10 of Canada's Olympic medals have been won by women.

Elsewhere, the women's basketball team bounced back from an initial loss against Serbia to pull off a commanding 74-53 win against South Korea.

Bridget Carleton led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, while her Minnesota Lynx teammate Natalie Achonwa added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kayla Alexander chipped in with 10 points and Kia Nurse finished with nine.

Canada, ranked fourth heading into Tokyo, closes the group stage against No. 3 Spain on Sunday. 

In beach volleyball, Toronto's Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont., improved their record to 3-0 with a straight-set victory over Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré. The Canadian duo will move on to the knockout stage without having dropped a set.

Later, Heather Bansley of Waterdown, Ont., and Brandie Wilkerson of Toronto finished at 1-2 and third in their group following a 2-0 loss to Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa of Brazil.

And Canada's women's rugby sevens team got off to a flying start as they routed Brazil 33-0 in the opening match of the group play stage for both teams.

Things didn't go quite as well in the later match, which saw the Canadians fall to Fiji 26-12. Canada will wrap up group play with a match against France on Friday. 

In other action, rowers Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., and Kai Langerfeld of North Vancouver, B.C. finished fourth in the men's pair on the 2,000-metre course at Sea Forest Waterway.

In golf, Canadians Corey Connors and Mackenzie Hughes were tied for 20th after the first round with scores of 2-under 69, six shots back of leader Sepp Straka of Austria.

Canada's women's foil fencing team finished fifth after defeating Japan 45-31 in a placement game. 

And in artistic gymnastics, Brooklyn Moors of Cambridge, Ont., finished 16th in the final of the women's all-around competition. Ellie Black of Halifax had qualified for the final, but had to withdraw after spraining her left ankle in training.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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