TORONTO, CANADA – No story has been more extraordinary for Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games than the success of the country’s women. As Day 5 of the Games came to a close, Canada had won nine medals. Women have won each of them.
It is a far cry from the days when Canada’s men dominated the Canadian medal tallies and took up most of the Olympic delegation.
On Wednesday, 21-year-old Penny Oleksiak won the bronze medal in the women’s 200m freestyle race and added a sixth medal to her already illustrious career. The Toronto native cannot rent a car in her home province, yet she is in a group with only Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen as the only Canadians with six Olympic medals.
At Rio 2016, Canadian women won the nation’s first 12 medals and finished with 16 of Canada’s 22. With nine medals in the first five days in Japan, Canadian women could surpass that total.
Many of the women who have captured medals are also former or current Canadian university athletes. Maude Charon went to UQAM, Kayla Sanchez is heading into her first year at UBC, and Rebecca Smith is transferring from U of T to Calgary. Books, weights, swims and Olympic medals.
Let’s get into how Canadian university athletes did on Day 5 of Tokyo 2020.
Canadian water polo wins a game
August 18, 2004. That was the last time Canada’s women won an Olympic Waterpolo game. The writer behind these words was three years old at that time and could barely speak. Finally, after 6,188 days, a win.
Canada defeated South Africa 21-1 to pick up their first win of the Olympic tournament and stay alive in their group. Every Canadian player scored at least once, including McGill graduate Joelle Bekhazi.
Team Canada will hope it doesn’t take another 17 years to win again, as they take on the Netherlands in their final group stage match on Sunday.
Men’s Volleyball cruise by Iran
Entering their third game of Tokyo 2020 at 0-2, Canada needed a win against Iran to lift the team’s morale. However, it did not take long for them to get past the Iranians, just three sets, as Canada picked up their first win.
TRU Wolfpack alumnus Gordon Perrin led the team with 16 points, as the U SPORTS-heavy roster cruised to an easy 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-22) over the Iranians.
With the win, Canada’s playoff and medal hopes remain alive. Canada is in a pool with five other nations, and the top four advance to a playoff bracket to decide the medals. Team Canada will look to improve their record to .500 when they take on Venezuela on July 30.
Sixth in rowing
McGill’s Gabriella Smith and UBC’s Jessica Sevick raced in the women’s double sculls early on Wednesday in Tokyo and never threatened for a medal. The pair of Olympic debutants finished in 6th place.
Michelle Li advances to badminton playoffs
University of Toronto graduate Michelle Li won her pool in the women’s singles badminton tournament, with victories over Slovakia’s Martina Repiska and Guatemala’s Nikte Sotomayor.
With the win, the former OUA All-Star moves onto the first round of the knockout stages, where she will take on Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, who is ranked third in the world. It will take an upset for Li to advance to the quarterfinals, being ranked 11th, but it is not impossible.
The first-round knockout match begins at 8:45 pm ET on Wednesday in Toronto.
U SPORTS among the stars in men’s basketball
Three former U SPORTS names took on the Olympic men’s basketball tournament on Day 5. Former X Rams basketball Head Coach Roy Rana is an assistant with the German team, and they clashed with Nigeria, who feature uOttawa Gee-Gee grad Caleb Agada.
“Ryerson U vs Ottawa U [uOttawa] become Germany vs Nigeria,” said Rana on Twitter.
Team Germany prevailed over Nigeria 99-92, and Agada scored six points in 4:57 minutes of playing time.
In a game watched by millions of NBA fans, UBC grad Philip Jalalpoor featured for Iran in their loss to the USA. The American team features the likes of NBA stars Kevin Durant, Jrue Holiday, among others, putting the spotlight on the former Thunderbirds for a game. The USA defeated Iran 120-66.
The pool party continues
It was early in the morning in Canada, but the nation’s swimmers were in full force as Day 5 drew to a close. Penny Oleksiak and UBC’s Kayla Sanchez swam their way to a spot in the women’s 100m freestyle semi-finals. At the same time, another Thunderbird, Markus Thormeyer, booked his ticket to the men’s 200m backstroke semis.
2020 U SPORTS Athlete of the Year Kelsey Wog (Manitoba) swam her way into the women’s 200m breaststroke semi-finals, where she will look for a chance at her first Olympic gold medal. Wog won four U SPORTS National gold medals in 2019; now, she’ll look for the Olympic edition.
LOOKING AHEAD: Rowing and Swimming
Day 6 is a massive day for Canadians across the board, and Canadian university athletes are right in the thick of it.
All of the aforementioned swimming semifinals and finals occur tonight in Canada, with action at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre getting underway at 9:30 pm ET with the men’s 800m freestyle. UBC’s Thormeyer is the first U SPORTS athlete off the blocks, with his 200m backstroke semi-final at 9:44 pm ET.
In rowing, there’s a lot to look for and many Canadian medal opportunities. UVic’s Kai Langerfeld joins partner Conlin McCabe to row for gold in the men’s pair, while UBC’s Hillary Janssens joins Caileigh Filmer to row for gold in the women’s competition. The rowing finals get going at 8:00pm ET.
Canada’s Ellie Black OUT of gymnastics all-around
Canada’s Ellie Black has withdrawn from the women’s all-around gymnastics competition after picking up an injury in training on competition Day -1. The Dalhousie University alumna was a Canadian medal hopeful in the event but will not take part. USA’s Simon Biles has also withdrawn from the competition, citing her mental health as the reason for sitting out of the event.