Road To The Olympic Games

Canadian foil fencers miss Rio qualification due to tiebreaker

The Canadian men's foil fencing team won't be heading to Rio after missing out on the final qualification spot, losing a tiebreaker decision to Brazil by the narrowest of margins.

Maximilien Van Haaster holds comfortable spot for individual qualification

Canada's Maximilien Van Haaster is shown at right in this July 2015 file photo. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

The Canadian men's foil fencing team of Maximilien Van Haaster, Etienne Lalonde-Turbide, Anthony Prymack and Eli Schenkel won't be heading to Rio. The team missed out on the final qualification spot on a tiebreaker decision to the host nation Brazil by the narrowest of margins at a World Cup event in Bonn, Germany, on Sunday.

Team fencing competitions at the upcoming Games are allocated eight spots, based on the teams' world rankings. The top four teams secure a spot regardless of their region and the remaining four are reserved for the top-ranked team from each of four regions — Asia-Oceania, Europe, Africa and the Americas — which isn't already in the top four. Sunday was the final competition to qualify for the Games in the men's team foil.

The United States, the top team from the Americas, finished the season Sunday ranked fourth, leaving a spot remaining for the next best team from the Americas.

Canada held a narrow, eight-point lead over Brazil to start the weekend, though the Games' host nation, with a strong performance, could catch Canada.

Brazil did just that, the two teams finishing the day tied in the rankings with 169 points apiece, sending the decision to a tiebreaker. Which team finished better at an Olympic qualification event?

For Canada and Brazil, the 2015 Pan Am Fencing Championships in Santiago, Chile, was the decision-maker. Brazil finished a single spot ahead, claiming silver to Canada's bronze, last April. In that championship, Canada lost to Brazil by a tight 45-40  score in the semifinals, sending each team to their respective gold and bronze medal matches.

Further, Brazil, as host nation, is allowed eight places in fencing at the Games, regardless of how they are ranked through international competition, that they are free to spend on whichever events they wish. Feeling they had a strong enough shot at qualifying in the men's team foil without using one of their eight auto-qualification spaces, they didn't spend one there. That decision has narrowly paid off.

Career-best individual finish for Van Haaster

Van Haaster had a good day in the individual competition, finishing a career-best 31st.

The 23-year-old still has a strong shot at qualifying for Rio in the men's individual foil, though there are two meetings remaining before the competitors officially book their tickets, the more important of the two a Grand Prix event in Havana, Cuba March 11-13.

The Montreal native has amassed four top-10 finishes, including a bronze in 2013, at the Pan Am championships in as many years and in 2015 finished 58th at the world championships, his best result at the event.

Women put up strong showing in Algeria

The women's foil team was also in action in Algiers, Algeria and produced strong results.

Eleanor Harvey of Hamilton, Ont., finished 13th, leading the team with a win over Sylwia Gruchala of Poland, who reached the podium at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

The women's team foil will not be contested at the Rio Olympics. The fencing team events are contested on a rotating basis.

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