Moncton crowd cheers as Genevieve Lalonde makes Olympic final

Genevieve Lalonde of Moncton has qualified for the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase finals at the Olympic Games in Rio, setting a new Canadian steeplechase record in the process.

Lalonde sets new Canadian steeplechase record in qualifying heat, will move on to Monday's medal race

Denis Cormier, who went to school with Genevieve Lalonde, waves the New Brunswick flag after her Olympic heat on Saturday. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

A crowd of around 50 fans gathered in Moncton on Saturday to cheer hometown favourite Genevieve Lalonde as she qualified for a spot in Monday's 3,000-metre steeplechase final at the Olympic Games in Rio.

The gathering at Crystal Mountain Party Palace was organized by the local branch of Athletics New Brunswick. As Lalonde appeared on screen, a cheer went up in the banquet room.

Genevieve Lalonde smiles during a CBC interview Saturday after qualifying for Monday's women's 3,000-metre steeplechase. (CBC)

"I was shaking, honestly, I was so nervous," said Pierre Landry, who used to train with Lalonde.

Still trembling after the race, Landry said he believed his old teammate could pull off something great.

"You never know, the podium is still in the range."

Most of those who came to watch knew Lalonde from her days training at home. Naomi Maltais is a local athlete who said she had seen how excited Lalonde was at last month's National Track and Field Championships in Edmonton.

"I'm just excited to see her run today." said Maltais.

Supporters of Genevieve Lalonde let out a cheer after watching her qualify for the 3,000-metre steeplechase final at the Rio Olympics. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

In a dramatic third heat, where a runner from Ethiopia was forced to complete the race with only one shoe, Lalonde came in fourth place. In doing so, she broke her own national record with a time of 9:30:24.

"I'm just amazed, that was a Canadian record," gushed Denis Cormier who went to school with Lalonde.

Gisele Levesque said just making it to the final race was one of Lalonde's goals. Levesque said she watched the 24-year-old Moncton runner grow up in the track community.

About 50 people gathered at Moncton's Crystal Mountain Party Palace on Saturday to watch Genevieve Lalonde qualify for a spot in Monday’s 3,000-metre steeplechase final. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"She's reached it, I'm so proud of her," she beamed after the race.

Levesque noted that when Lalonde takes to the track Monday morning, she will be doing so on a special day. Monday is Quinze Aout, National Acadian Day, and Levesque pointed out Lalonde is a proud Acadian athlete.

What a beautiful gift it would be for the Acadians to see our Acadian run at the Olympics.- Gisele Levesque

"What a beautiful gift it would be for the Acadians to see our Acadian run at the Olympics."

Lalonde is the only New Brunswicker on the track at the Olympics. Her former coach Gabriel Leblanc said he's proud of the work she's put into her sport to reach the Olympics. The current technical director for Athletics New Brunswick, Leblanc said he hoped the younger athletes watching in the room would take something away from Lalonde's run.

"Hopefully they can be inspired by Genevieve's accomplishments," he said.