Canada's top Pan Am Games athletes shift focus to making impact at Paris Olympics

Not chasing an Olympic berth over the next nine months allows Canadian athletes who were successful at the Pan Am Games to direct energy into other elements of their preparation for Paris. But for boxer Tammara Thibeault, the immediate priority is " rest and recovery."

After qualifying in Chile, boxer Wyatt Sanford to use extra time studying opponents

Canadian men's boxer delivers upper-cut to opponent during match at Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile.
Wyatt Sanford of Kennetcook, N.S., right, met Olympic qualification thresholds at the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile. 'We don't have to do the other two qualifications, so we have more time at the gym to nitpick on those minor things,' Sanford says of he and boxing teammate Tammara Thibeault. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

The athletes who have their literal golden ticket to next summer's Olympic Games in Paris from the Pan Am Games plan to make the most of it.

Vancouver breaker Philip Kim, also known as B-Boy Phil Wizard, surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin of Tofino, B.C., and boxers Tammara Thibeault of Shawinigan, Que., and Wyatt Sanford of Kennetcook, N.S., left Chile with coveted souvenir gold tickets to Paris.

The four Canadians met Olympic qualification thresholds in their respective sports in Santiago.

Not chasing an Olympic berth over the next nine months frees them up to put energy into other elements of their Paris prep.

"It frees me up, in breaking, to create more," Kim said. "I've been competing heavily this past year and when you're in competition mode, it takes up all your time and doesn't allow you to kind of develop new movements.

"That's going to be my focus from now until Paris, just to create some new moves."

Sanford intends to use his extra time studying opponents already qualified  "so we're going to be able to have better strategy," he said.

"We don't have to do the other two qualifications, so we have more time at the gym to nitpick on those minor things to make sure that we have a major impact."

WATCH | Full replay of 2023 Pan Am Games closing ceremony: 

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The Pan American Games fell in South American summer at the end of October and November. That's off-season for many Canadian summer-sport athletes who have already spent months travelling to compete.

"Right now, the priority is rest and recovery," Thibeault said. "Then there are some things I definitely want to fix in terms of performance."

Having this [Olympic] spot secured lets me train even harder ... and get everything organized.— Surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin on the 2024 Summer Games in Paris

Dempfle-Olin's Olympic qualification is provisional upon her participation in February's World Surf Games in Puerto Rico.

But unlike over 100 women chasing the seven remaining Olympic berths, the 18-year-old can start tailoring her preparation for Olympic surfing in Tahiti.

"It gives me an Olympic event to prepare for," Dempfle-Olin said. "Having this spot secured and I know that I'm going whether I get a good result or not, it lets me train even harder and get boards ready for a wave like Teahupo'o and get everything organized."

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Paris will host the Olympic Games from July 26 to Aug. 11 followed by the Paralympic Games from Aug. 28 to Sept. 8 in 2024.

The Canadian Olympic Committee plans to carry over to Paris some operational elements from the COVID-19 pandemic Olympic Games of Tokyo in 2021 and Beijing in 2022.

"I think Team Canada will perhaps lead the standings in mask-wearing in Paris. I say that tongue-in-cheek," COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker said in Santiago.

"Taking those kinds of precautions, listening to our chief medical officer Dr. Mike Wilkinson and following the rules of health and safety and wellness really served us well. We were able to get all of our athletes to compete in Tokyo. No athlete was denied the competition in Beijing."

Canada's athletes were directed to wear a mask for 72 hours after their arrival in Santiago "and then, particularly outdoor spaces, you're free to take it off," Shoemaker said.

"If somebody were to test positive, we were going to isolate people," he continued. "We're going to borrow heavily from that as we go to Paris."

COC exec expects athlete buy-in to prevent illness

Shoemaker said while it's not comfortable wearing a mask on a plane, or in the heat of Paris, he believes Canada's athletes will buy into illness-preventing precautions in order to get to the start line.

"When your performance and your life dream of performing at the Olympic Games comes down to fractions of a second or fragments of a centimetre, you're not going to take the chance, whether it's COVID, or some other virus, that could jeopardize how you're feeling on the day of your competition," he said.

An Olympic Games host city is under the international microscope in the months leading up to the arrival of thousands of people from around the world. A bedbug infestation in Paris made headlines in recent weeks.

Shoemaker feels Paris will have bedbugs under control by next summer. Kim feels reassured after competing in the Red Bull BC One World Final at Roland-Garros in October.

"I was concerned, but I was actually in Paris last week," he said Sunday. "When I got to my hotel, everything was good. When I was on the streets and stuff, I didn't really see any mattresses and stuff out.

"I know that was kind of all over the news as well, but from my experience, everything was OK."

WATCH | Canada's gold medal winning breaker earns Olympic spot: 

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