Relay silver in the pool caps Pan Am Games for Island athletes

The amalgam that was the 2019 Pan American Games concluded Sunday in Lima with the more than 50 Island or Island-based athletes representing Canada having been part of 17 medal wins in the Peruvian capital.

Canada generally sent its best in a sport if a 2020 Tokyo Olympic berth was on the line, but largely sent developmental or B teams in other sports.

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Regardless of level, it was another bountiful Games for Island athletes. The 17-medal haul included two gold. It compares to the 20 medals, including 13 gold, won by Island-based athletes at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games and 21 medals, including three gold, won by Islanders at the 2011 Guadalajara Pan Am Games.

The Island contribution concluded Sunday with swimmers Danielle Hanus and Faith Knelson, both from the High-Performance-Victoria program based at Saanich Commonwealth Place, winning silver with the Canadian women’s 4x100 medley relay team.

It was Hanus’s fourth silver medal of the Games as the University of Victoria female athlete of the year added to her three individual silvers from earlier in the Games.

The Ladysmith-raised Claremont graduate Knelson, headed to the NCAA Pac-12 with the University of Arizona Wildcats, also had an individual bronze medal in the Games.

“We’re all really stoked with it [relay silver],” said Knelson.

“We were definitely trying to go for gold, but the American girls put up a really good swim. It’s a great way to finish off the week with a medal. It was a total team effort.”

Canada’s A team swimmers skipped the Pan Am Games to compete in last month’s FINA world aquatics championships in South Korea. The challenge now for Hanus and Knelson is to propel themselves into that top group for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Elk Lake-based Rowing Canada, preparing for this month’s world championship which is also the Tokyo Olympic qualifier, sent a developmental team to Lima and came with two golds and a silver.

But it’s easy to forget how much more seriously the Central American and South American nations treat the Pan Am Games than do North Americans, not withstanding that the U.S. easily topped the Lima medals table, and Canada was third in overall medals and fourth in golds.

“The intensity the Pan American countries have around these Games was evident out on the water,” said Rowing Canada national team operations director Iain Brambell of Brentwood Bay.

“[Canadian crews] had experiences they haven’t had before, including several with the Maple Leaf on their oar for the first time.”

Island podium performances included Hanus’s four swimming silvers and Knelson’s silver and bronze. There was also gold-medallist 10,000-metre runner Natasha Wodak of the Prairie Inn Harriers, silver-medallist Emma Entzminger of Victoria in softball and the silver-medallist Victoria field-hockey trio of James Kirkpatrick, Maddie Secco and Anna Mollenhauer.

Teen prodigy Mathea Olin of Tofino won surf bronze. Victoria-cyclist Erin Attwell, high-jumper Michael Mason of Nanoose Bay and triathletes Desirae Ridenour of Cowichan Bay and Hannah Henry of Victoria all captured silver medals in Lima.

Victoria’s Caroline Crossley, Pam Buisa and the Langford-based Canadian women’s rugby sevens team won gold and the men’s sevens squad the silver medal with Luke McCloskey and Brennig Prevost of Victoria, Patrick Kay of Duncan and former UVic Vikes stars Nathan Hirayama and Sean Duke.

Island athletes now prepare for the Para Pan Am Games, which begin this month in Lima.

The 2023 Pan American and Para Pan Am Games are in Santiago, Chile.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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