TORONTO/HALIFAX – While swimming is winding down at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, athletics is just getting off the blocks. If you thought there were many swimmers from U SPORTS, just wait until you see the athletics athletes.
There are 19 former, current and incoming U SPORTS student-athletes representing Canada in the track and field, the most of any sport. The swimming action featuring the likes of Kylie Masse and Kelsey Wog is wrapping up in the pool as the Games flip to week two and track and field.
Canadian university student-athletes and graduates don’t just make up a swim or a track team; they make up almost a third of the Canadian Olympic team. With so many reaching new heights at the Games, let’s get right into the action for Day 7.
Women’s eight wins gold, Kit first U SPORTS athlete to capture gold
With a dominating performance Friday, Canada’s third gold medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics came off the paddles of the women’s eight rowing team.
With a time of 5:59.13, the Canada squad essentially led wire-to-wire, well ahead after the first 1,000 metres. By the end, they barely held off runners-up New Zealand (6:00.04) and China (6:01.24) for the golden finish.
“I felt like we built up every race, and we decided that today was going to be the best race,” crew member Lisa Roman said to the CBC following the competition. She, along with Susanne Grainger and Christine Roper, were with the team that finished a heartbreaking fifth place in the 2016 Rio games. “We knew if we laid down the best race, we could probably win a gold medal. We were more focused on having our best race and knowing that that would probably give us what we wanted.
Team Canada member Kristen Kit becomes the second UBC (and U SPORTS) athlete to medal in two days on the rowing pond after Hillary Janssens helped Canada to bronze in women’s pairs Thursday. Kit becomes the first gold medal winner from a U SPORTS institution in Tokyo.
Sydney Payne, Madison Mailey, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Avalon Wasteneys and Andrea Proske round out the first-place Canadian squad.
After going medal-less in the 2016 Rio games, the victory Friday was Canada’s first podium finish in the event since winning silver in the 2012 London Olympics. Their last gold in the event? 1992 Barcelona.
Additionally, this is Canada’s first gold in any rowing event since Beijing 2008. They have medaled in rowing events twice this Olympics; Canada captured bronze in the women’s pairs event Thursday, with the country’s pair composed of Caleigh Filmer and Janssens.
Women’s rugby misses out on medal contention
Adversity met Canada’s women’s rugby sevens team early and often this Olympics, culminating with them missing the knockout round and playoff contention.
But despite what they ran into, Canada missed out by only a point. Literally, a single point.
After opening the tournament with a 33-0 romp over Brazil, they ran into powerhouse Fiji. They not only beat the Canucks 26-12, but the game knocked players Charity Williams and Keyara Wardley out of action with injuries. Wardley’s hip injury will keep her out of the rest of the games. Canada would wrap up their group stage against France, a 31-0 loss.
Canada still had a chance to squeeze into the knockout if New Zealand beat the ROC from Russia by 34 points or more.
The final score of that game? 33-0.
To add insult to injury, the last two teams met again in the quarter-finals, and New Zealand won 36-0.
After Canada beat Brazil 45-0 in a classification game, they will face Kenya in the ninth-place game at 8:30 p.m. Eastern to wrap up their tournament.
Men’s volleyball pick up a win
The Canadian men’s volleyball team is rolling! The team featuring 10 U SPORTS-related players swiftly defeated Venezuela in straight sets to bring their Olympic record to 2-2. The victory is their second straight, an uplifting theme since falling to Italy and Japan in their opening matches.
In a group with five other countries, Canada will need to defeat their next opponent, Poland, on Sunday to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. After that, the top four from each group qualify for the knockout stage.
Team Canada never had an inkling of doubt against the now 0-4 Venezuelans, winning in three straight sets and never allowing the South Americans to hit even 15 points.
McMaster MAradeurs alumnus Stephen Maar scored the team’s second-most points, with 15, only behind Nicholas Hoag’s 16.
Canada holds their destiny when it comes to qualifying for the knockout stage; they just have to get the work done against Poland.
Kylie Masse and Brent Hayden earn a shot at medals
U of T graduate Kylie Masse already has a silver medal in Tokyo from the women’s 100m backstrokes. Still, she could very well add another medal to her collection in the women’s 200m backstrokes as well.
Masse posted the fourth-fastest time in the semi-final and has set herself up nicely for her first Olympic title.
UBC alumnus 37-year-old Brent Hayden has made his comeback in Tokyo, and he’ll look to make his podium comeback as well. Hayden won a bronze medal in the men’s 100m freestyle at London 2012, then retired, and is now back. After posting the eighth fastest time in the men’s 50m freestyle hearts, he wil compete in the semi-finals for a chance to swim for gold.
UBC’s John Gay into Steeplechase 3000m final
In the event a lot of people think is made for horses, but competed by humans, UBC Thunderbird student-athlete John Gay has earned himself a shot at a gold medal. In his Olympic debut race, the 24-year-old finished with the 11th fastest time and earned himself a spot in the final.
Guelph Gryphon Andrea Seccafien to run for gold in 5000m
Andrea Seccafien won a U SPORTS gold medal in 2013, and she’ll look for an Olympic version of one on Friday night. She grabbed the 15th and final spot in the Olympic final, running a near-personal best in Tokyo’s humid and stifling heat.
She finished 20th in her Olympic debut five years ago in Rio, not good enough for the final. However, even if the former Guelph Gryphon ends in the last place in the final, she will have a career-best Olympic performance.