4 strong wins in Rio on lucky Day 13 for Canada
Warner, De Grasse, Benfeito, Wiebe all climb the podium on Thursday
By Scott Russell, CBC Sports
In an ironic sort of way, Day 13 in Rio turned out to be one of good fortune for Canada.
There were four medals won, the most by Canadian athletes in a single day at any edition of the Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996. Each victory had a back story which made it significant and therefore destined to become a part of our nation's sporting folklore in the future.
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It started with tiny Meaghan Benfeito twisting and tumbling to a bronze medal finish in diving's 10-metre individual platform event. She is better known as a synchronized diver, having achieved great success with her partner Roseline Filion. Together they've won multiple medals at the world championships and Olympic Games over their dozen years of partnership.
But on this day, Benfeito made a mark on her own.
The younger of the two, Benfeito had patiently trained in solitude throughout most of the lead up to these Olympics because Filion had broken her foot at Christmas. She drove her injured teammate to medical appointments and loyally attended the healing process.
In this competition, as Filion gutted out what would be her last Olympic performance, the younger Benfeito served notice that she'll be a handful for the powerful Chinese divers for a few years yet to come.
Shape of things to come
Then there was the decathlete, Damian Warner.
He's the shape of things to come in this gruelling sport which asks its contestants to perform 10 acts over two days while expertly combining all of the foundation movements of the human body: running, jumping, and throwing.
Some say the Olympic decathlon champion is the greatest all-around athlete in the world. Warner travels easily in those circles now and proved it by winning a bronze medal well within reach of the great American, Ashton Eaton, who powered his way to a second-consecutive gold medal in what is a punishing pursuit.
And there, in the crowd, were Warner's mentors. High school teachers and university track coaches from his hometown of London, Ont., who continue to guide his progress as they have since he took up decathlon as a kid.
Turns out Warner's comfort zone remains in his own backyard and he steadfastly maintains he will always count on all-Canadian roots to ground him.
Olympic rookie makes his mark
Andre De Grasse has gone in another direction and now trains in the southern United States with an elite group of sprinters from all over the world. Still, De Grasse flashed a typically Canadian trait by revealing his dogged determination to challenge the most powerful of rivals.
Although competing at his first Olympics, the rookie charged ahead and won medals in the 100 and 200 metres out-distancing far more experienced runners and in each case within a whisper of the mighty Usain Bolt of Jamaica.
His remarks after finishing were telling: "I'm going to learn from this and come back stronger the next time," De Grasse said. "I want to be the best some day and I think I can be."
Finally, Erica Wiebe, a wrestler from the outskirts of Ottawa, delivered a most impressive gold medal victory in the women's 75 kg division. Wiebe is a bit of a character and might even be considered a free spirit. But once on the mat she proved herself to be tenacious – not to mention tough as nails.
Once she vanquished her opponent from Kazakhstan, Wiebe waved the flag, paraded her male coach around the arena on her shoulders and proceeded to cry an unrepentant river as she belted out the national anthem from her perch on top of the podium.
In that moment she became a symbol of the empowered Canadian women who have revealed themselves many times over at these Olympics.
"I have never had this much fun while wrestling," Wiebe smiled as she fought back more tears. "I was not afraid to lose. I was not afraid of anything."
Those sentiments were the topper on a day of good fortune for Canadian athletes. And as everyone knows, good luck comes to those who work the hardest.
Although they weren't all gold medals like Erica Wiebe's, these were four strong wins on a Canadian sort of day in Rio.