Canadians win Pan Am team squash gold
Synchronized swimming team earns 2012 Olympic berth
The CODE Squash Complex felt like home for the Canadian women's squash team during their gold medal win over Colombia at the Pan American Games on Friday.
Once the 200-seat venue was packed with rabid fans from the host country, it became much more hostile territory.
Canada was denied a sweep of the team medals when Mexico's Eric Galvez rode the wave of local support to a 3-0 win over Calgary's Andrew Schnell in the deciding match of the men's final later in the day.
Canada also won gold and silver in the pool Friday. The women's synchronized swimming team finished first to qualify for the London Olympics and the women's 4x100-metre medley relay team added a silver.
On the squash court, Samantha Cornett of Deep River, Ont., opened the best-of-three tie with a 3-1 victory over Cataline Pelaez and Miranda Ranieri of Waterloo, Ont., sealed the victory with a 3-1 win over Silvia Angulo. Toronto's Stephanie Edmison was on tap to play the deciding match but it wasn't necessary.
"Every single player when they needed to win, they won the match," said national women's coach Shauna Flath. "It didn't matter who it was. You look at them, when it was their number and their turn to play, they sealed the deal."
Went for 'wow' factor
In the synchro swimming, the gold went to Stephanie Durocher of Repentigny, Que., Karine Thomas and Stephanie Leclair of Gatineau, Que., Tracy Little of Pointe-Claire, Que., Quebec City's Elise Marcotte, Valerie Welsh of Saint Nicholas, Que., Montreal's Jo-Annie Fortin and Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon.
Canada finished with 95.513 points, well ahead of the second-place Americans (89.838) and third-place Mexico (89.125).
"Today we swam with passion," Marcotte said. "We wanted the other countries and the judges to think, 'Wow,' and that is what we did. The countdown is now started for London."
In the relay, Gabrielle Soucisse of Montreal, Ashley McGregor of Pointe-Claire, Que., Edmonton's Erin Miller and Jennifer Beckberger of Ajax, Ont., finished second in four minutes 07.04 seconds. The Americans blew away the field to win gold in 4:01.00 and Brazil was third in 4:07.12.
The atmosphere was electric for the men's squash final. Fans were packed in the small venue and dozens more watched from the sides despite an obstructed view.
Rowdy squash fans
They chanted, whistled then erupted when Cesar Salazar opened with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Montreal's Shawn Delierre.
"This was as raucous as it gets," said Canadian men's coach Yvon Provencal.
Toronto's Shahier Razik evened the tie with a 3-1 win over Arturo Salazar. In the decider, the veteran Galvez was too crafty for the inexperienced Schnell, who seemed a little rattled by some of the referee's calls and the intensity of the fans.
"We think hockey fans are bad," Provencal said. "This is another world."
The fans were split fairly evenly for the women's squash final earlier in the day. Cornett dropped the opening game and was down 2-6 before reeling off nine straight points to pull even.
The tall right-hander used consistent length and effective holds to keep her opponent on the move. Cornett was in control for the last two games.
Ranieri's match was a chippy affair. She accidentally struck Angulo in the elbow with her racket midway through the first game. A welt formed on the Colombian's arm and she needed a few minutes to receive treatment.
Angulo was caught out of position and the swing didn't appear to be wild. Ranieri apologized but the Colombian shouted at her and was quite animated after being hit.
"I was a little shocked when I heard her reaction," Ranieri said. "But I tried to stay focused, I tried to walk it off. I didn't want to partake in that sort of thing."
Angulo won the next four points and took the opening game.
Ranieri eventually wore her opponent down by using solid pace and effective deception to take control of the match.
Gold the only goal
The three Canadians were beaming on the podium while O Canada was played. This was one of the top events on their calendar since squash is not played at the Olympics.
Canada was coming off a 2-1 semifinal victory over host Mexico. Edmison sealed that victory with a 3-0 win over Nayelly Hernandez.
"We were going in gunning for the gold and we were probably the favourites all through the tournament," Edmison said. "But it was about pulling out those wins when we needed them."
The United States and Mexico won bronze in women's play. Brazil and the U.S. won men's bronze.
Elsewhere, Montreal's Vincent Gagnon lost to Mexico's Gilberto D. Meija in the semifinals of men's singles racquetball. Earlier, Gagnon had defeated Luis A. Perez of the Dominican Republic 2-0 in the quarter-finals.
In women's basketball, Justine Colley of Halifax led Canada with 14 points in a 78-53 preliminary round loss to Brazil.
Canada's women's archery team lost to Cuba 3-2 in the quarter-finals. In men's team archery, Canada topped Colombia 6-4 in the quarter-finals, but then lost to Mexico 4-2 in the semis and were soundly beaten 4-1 by Cuba in the bronze-medal match.
Korey Jarvis of Elliot Lake, Ont., was beaten 4-3 by Argentina's Yuri Alexei Maier in the 96-kilogram weight class of men's Greco-Roman wrestling.
Canada defeated the Dominican Republic 7-3 in the preliminary round of women's softball.