Ruby Stevens wins Canada's 1st gold at Parapan Am Games, Stephanie Chan its 1st medal

Stephanie Chan, a 66-year-old para table tennis player from Vancouver, captured Canada’s first medal at the Parapan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday.

Table tennis athlete Chan wins bronze to get Canada into medal column

A women's swimmer holds up a gold medal.
Ruby Stevens took Canada's first gold medal of the 2023 Parapan Am Games on Saturday in the women's S6 100-metre backstroke final. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Stephanie Chan, a 66-year-old Para table tennis player from Vancouver, captured Canada's first medal at the Parapan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday, while Para swimmer Ruby Stevens secured Canada's first gold later in the day.

Despite losing a semifinal match to Giselle Munoz of Argentina on Saturday morning at the event, Chan was awarded a bronze medal — the third- and fourth-place finishers both received bronze medals.

It's her sixth medal and second consecutive bronze at the Games.

A woman wearing a maroon sweater holds up a bronze medal while smiling.
Stephanie Chan won Canada's first medal at the Santiago Parapan American Games, taking bronze in table tennis on Saturday. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

"So excited. I still got a medal. A bronze medal," she said after the match.

Chan, who will have heart surgery after the Games, admitted to not feeling well.

"I had some problems with my breathing. Gabrielle played well but this heart problem did not allow me to play a lot this year," she said. 

How Chan arrived at her fifth Parapan Am Games and competed is remarkable.

Chan has been dealing with the heart issue for months but plans to continue competing.

"My heart has some problems," Chan said. "After surgery I will come again to table tennis and have a chance to come to Parapan Am again."

Canadian national team coach Dejan Papic lauded Chan's courage. 

''She found the strength to compete once again for the Canadian team," Papic said in a statement released by the Canadian Paralympic Committee. "Considering her condition at these Games this may have been her best achievement. She did much more than we expected."

WATCH | Watch some of the best performances from the Parapan Am Games:

Santiago 2023 Parapan American Games: Day 1 late highlights

15 days ago
Duration 20:52
Featured VideoWatch some of the best performances from the Santiago 2023 Parapan American Games.

Chan is scheduled to compete later this week in mixed doubles with Asad Hussain Syed of Toronto. 

Munoz plays for a gold medal later Saturday against defending champion Claudia Perez of Mexico, who received a bye after finishing first in the preliminary round.

'I still have the confidence'

For Chan, resilience is a part of her DNA. 

Before the Lima Games four years ago she lost her mother and still competed. Then her husband passed away in 2022. 

Chan pushed on, continuing to compete to honour her mother and husband and all of those who have supported her.

"Thank you to everyone who supports me. It makes me more confident to fight. This is my spirit for people who support me. I still have the confidence to beat other people," she said.

"I'll get my heart good and then I can do anything."

Chan was Canada's opening ceremony flag-bearer at the 2019 Games. Her crowning achievement came on home soil when she won women's singles gold at Toronto 2015.

WATCH | Shaw, Gautier lead Canada into 2023 Parapan Am Games:

Gautier, Shaw lead Canada's entrance at Parapan Am Games opening ceremony

16 days ago
Duration 1:02
Featured VideoFlag-bearers Shelley Gautier and Rob Shaw lead Canada's team of 135 athletes into the opening ceremony of the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

But now the focus is on getting healthy.

"Health is important first. If no health, I cannot play," she said.

"I will be back."

Stevens wins Para swimming gold in style

Another first of the Parapan Am Games came later on Saturday in the pool, with Stevens securing the first gold medal for Canada.

The Scarborough, Ont., native got Canada going at the Centro Acuático in style, setting a Parapan Am Games record of 1 minute, 30.41 seconds in the women's S6 100-metre backstroke final.

The 21-year-old newcomer to the sport dominated the race from the start, finishing 3.97 seconds ahead of silver medallist Vianney Trejo of Mexico, and 4.01 ahead of third-place American Megan Gioffreda.

WATCH | Stevens wins gold in Parapan Am Games record time:

GOLD MEDAL: Scarborough's Ruby Stevens sets Parapan Am record in 100m backstroke S6 victory

15 days ago
Duration 3:23
Featured VideoRuby Stevens of Scarborough, Ont., wins the women's 100-metre backstroke S6 final with a Parapan Am record time of 1:30.41 for Canada's first gold medal at the Santiago 2023 Parapan American Games.

"It honestly doesn't feel real," said Stevens to CBC Sports. "It's probably going to take a little bit to settle in. But I'm just so happy and so grateful to be given this opportunity."

Colombia's Sara Varga set the Games record of 1:33.03 in Lima, Peru, in 2019, while American Ellie Marks' world record time of 1:19.57 - set in Japan in 2021 - still stands.

Stevens completed her international classification just last month at the Para swimming World Series stop in Guadalajara, Mexico, wasting no time making an impact for Canada on a major international stage.

"I don't even know how to describe the shock, but also just everying, all the emotions coming at me at once," Stevens said to CBC Sports. "But they're all good."

MacDonald, Lu add medals in pool for Canada

Tyson MacDonald added to Canada's medal haul with a bronze in the men's S14 200m freestyle final, clocking in at 2:01.61.

The Woodstock, Ont., native started very strong in second-place after the first 50m split, but was overtaken for silver by Colombia's Juan Garcia, who finished with a time of 1:57.28.

Garcia was just back of Brazil's Gabriel Bandeira, who took gold with a Parapan Am Games record time of 1:56.30.

The 27-year-old MacDonald was thrilled with his time, besting his bronze-medal winning time at the 2019 Parapan Am Games in Peru in the event by 1.83 seconds.

A men's swimmer smiles while holding up a bronze medal.
Tyson MacDonald celebrates his bronze medal in the men's S14 200m freestyle final, the fourth Parapan Am Games medal of his career. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

"It's extra special being back on the international stage," said MacDonald to CBC Sports. "To get a second bronze in the [200 freestyle], being faster than I was four years later... I'm very proud of that."

Fernando Lu capped off Canada's night in the pool by completing the podium sweep with a silver medal in the men's S10 50m freestyle.

The 16-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., clocked in with a time of 25.28 in his Parapan Am Games debut.

"It's my first time being at an international meet, so it feels good to medal," said Lu to CBC Sports. "I've never seen a crowd so big in my life."

A men's swimmer stands in front of a blue backdrop.
Fernando Lu won silver in the men's S10 50m freestyle. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Lu's teammate Jagdev Gill finished 0.30 seconds back of a podium finish, with American Yaseen El-Demerdash claiming bronze in 25.42.

Phelipe Melo of Brazil won gold with a time of 23.93, just 0.51 seconds off of his own Parapan Am Games record set in Toronto in 2015, and 0.77 seconds back of the world record time set by countrymate Andre Brasil Esteves in 2012.


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

With files from CBC Sports

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now