Canadians shut out of medals at Day 1 of Paralympics

Canadians started the Rio Paralympics on a high note with a basketball victory early Thursday, while judoka Priscilla Gagné reached the bronze-medal match.

Priscilla Gagné narrowly misses bronze

Canadian judoka Priscilla Gagne, right, reached the bronze-medal match Thursday in Rio. (Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee)

The Rio Paralympics kicked off with early Canadian success on Thursday, but the team ultimately fell short of the podium on Day 1 of competition.

Here's how the top Canadians fared:

Gagné loses bronze medal bout

There were moments during Thursday's bronze-medal bout that Priscilla Gagné couldn't hear her coach Andrzej Sadej over the raucous cheers of the crowd.

The 30-year-old from Sarnia, Ont., lost to Uzbekistan's Sevinch Salaeva in judo's 52-kilogram category to finish fourth at the Paralympics, but the noisy crowd will be one big plus she takes from these Games.

"It's pretty exciting to be in a venue with lots of kids, that was probably the most special part," Gagné said. "After my second fight, all the kids who were so excited, and as soon as I acknowledged them they went bananas. It was cute."

She began her day with a loss to Algeria's Cherine Abdellaoui, but bounced back to defeat Ukrainian Liudmyla Lohatska by Ippon in the repechage round.

"I don't mind losing when it's really earned. So it's a little disappointing the first [loss] for sure," she said. "But this last one, I'm disappointed but [Salaeva] worked her butt off, we both did, and it was a mistake on my part, she was able to counter something. It was a good fight."

The two met in a huge embrace after the bout.

"I told her 'Congratulations,' and she was super happy and super, super not wanting to let go of a hug, so I just kept hugging her," Gagné said smiling.

"I have a couple of regrets that I could have done differently today, but all in all, you can't let it destroy you," she added. "You have an option, you can let it destroy you or you can use it as fuel to make you come back stronger or harder or learn from it more. I choose the latter option."

Gagné made her Paralympic debut following a rocky few years that saw her break both her feet in the same bout in 2011. The injuries kept her off the mat for eight months.

Canadian men's wheelchair basketball humbled

The defending Paralympic champions were outplayed by Spain, who controlled the game from start to finish en route to an 80-46 drubbing.

Alejandro Zarzuela poured in 22 points and Jordi Ruiz had 18, while Canadian flag-bearer David Eng led his team with 12.

Following the retirements of several core players, the current men's team is split right down the middle with six rookies and six veterans, and that imbalance of experience was a leading factor in Thursday's 80-46 loss against Spain.

"This is the biggest show and competition we can ever compete at so there's going to be a little adjustment period," head coach Steve Bialowas said. "It's not the same as a tournament, it's not the same as playing in a friendly and our younger players have to adjust to that."

The transition from a physically imposing team to a younger, faster, and more agile squad has come with bumps in the road, including the Canadians failing to qualify for the 2014 World Championships.

"That lack of experience is hurting us a bit right now, but it's getting that experience under our belt," said Bialowas. "There's no time to rest, we have another game tomorrow so you don't feel sorry for yourself because nobody out here feels sorry you."

Canadian women win wheelchair basketball opener

Canada's top-ranked women's wheelchair basketball team started the Rio Paralympics by defeating Great Britain 43-36 in the morning.

Veteran Janet McLachlan, of North Vancouver, led the team with 21 points, while Cindy Ouellet added another 14. They will continue their quest to reach the Paralympic podium for the first time since 2004 when they face Argentina on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. ET. 

Swimmers miss the podium on Day 1

Gordie Michie narrowly missed a spot on the podium when he placed fifth in the men's 100 backstroke S14 final. Michie finished with a time of one minute 5.12 seconds.

Earlier, Abi Tripp finished sixth in the women's 400-metre freestyle S8 final. The Kingston, Ont., native finished with a time of 5:16.25. In the men's 100 breaststroke SB9 final, James Leroux finished seventh in 1:10.03. 

In track and field action, Ilana Dupont finished last in the women's 100 T53 final. Dupont, who won silver at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto last summer, finished with a time of 17.24 seconds. 

With files from Keegan Matheson and The Canadian Press

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