Canadians felt heartbreak of Olympic 'tin medal'

It's been said by athletes that placing fourth is the worst spot you can finish at the Olympic Games - among the best in the world, but just shy of the Olympic podium.

'Fourth place is probably the worst place'

Canada's Melissa Bishop, left, reacts to finishing fourth in the women's 800-metre final behind South Africa winner Caster Semenya on Aug. 20 at the Rio Olympic Games. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

They call it the tin medal.

Fourth place at the Olympics.

Athletes say it's the worst spot to finish  — among the best in the world, but just shy of the Olympic podium.

For at least nine Canadians participating in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, a fourth-place finish was their reality. Here's a look at how close they came to capturing an Olympic medal in Brazil and how they reacted to missing out on the podium.

1. Melissa Bishop – Women's 800m

Bishop, 28, was in a medal position in the final straight of the race when Kenya's Margaret Wambui mustered the energy to get by the Eganville, Ont., native to claim bronze. Bishop set a new Canadian record, but missed out on a medal by 13/100ths of a second.

​"It's really kind of hard to describe this right now," she said after the race. "This is what we work for for a decade and to be that close. This is tough."

2. Emily Batty – Women's mountain bike

Another 28-year-old competitor from Ontario was on the outside looking in, except Batty lost her medal to a fellow Canadian. The cyclist kept up with Catharine Pendrel through the exhausting mountain ride, crossing the finish line just two seconds behind her. 

"I have really mixed emotions right now," Batty said afterward. "The medal was literally feet in front of me. Fourth place is probably the worst place ... I really wish I could've brought a medal home." 

3. Mohammed Ahmed – Men's 5,000m

Ahmed made an admirable push for the podium in the last turn of his race, battling with American Paul Kipkemoi Chelimo before running out of steam down the final stretch. The 25-year-old St. Catharines, Ont., resident was the fifth runner to cross the line, but moved up a spot when Ethiopia's Muktar Edris was disqualified.

"The podium was right there, I could taste it," Ahmed said. "To be that close is absolutely disappointing ... I put everything into this race."

4. Evan Dunfee – Men's 50km race walk

Dunfee, a 25-year-old from Richmond, B.C., was on cruise control as he passed Japan's Hirooki Arai with mere minutes left in the nearly four-hour race. Arai moved to keep up, but in the process bumped Dunfee, breaking the Canadian's stride and concentration.

"I mentally lost focus," Dunfee told CBC News. "Once I lost focus, my legs kind of went to jello and I wasn't really able to recover from that."

After an appeal, Dunfee was awarded bronze but it didn't last long. A counter appeal by the Japanese resulted in Dunfee losing out on the medal, but instead of fighting for bronze, the Canadian embraced a fourth-place finish and said he wouldn't be able to accept the medal with a clear conscious.

Dunfee's act was celebrated for its Olympic spirit, and at the closing ceremony, Dunfee sought out Arai and showed there were no hard feelings.

Other 4th-place finishers

  • Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware – Women's synchronized 3m springboard​
  • Jennifer Abel – Women's 3m springboard
  • Daniel Nestor and Vasik Pospisil – Men's doubles tennis
  • Carline Muir, Alicia Brown, Noelle Montcalm and Sage Watson – Women's 4x400m relay
  • Santo Condorelli – Men's 100m freestyle