TOKYO – The Canadian national anthem was played for a fifth time at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Saturday, courtesy of a gold medal performance from Para runner Nate Riech (Victoria, BC). Canada now holds 21 medals after Day 11 of competition. The Games heads into its last day on Sunday, with Closing Ceremony flag bearer and four-time Tokyo medallist Brent Lakatos (Dorval, QC) the only Canadian with an event remaining.
MEDALS WON ON SEPTEMBER 4
GOLD – Nate Riech, Para Athletics, Men’s T38 1500m
OVERALL MEDAL TOTAL
Nate Riech, making his Paralympic Games debut, was untouchable in the men’s T38 1500m final. Opening up a big lead in the second lap, he didn’t give any of his fellow racers a chance to reel him in, claiming gold in a Paralympic record time of 3:58.92, more than four seconds ahead of second place. Also the world record holder (set in May 2021), Riech adds Paralympic gold to his 2019 world championship title and cements his dominance in this distance.
“I felt like I got too concentrated on winning gold, so my sport psychologist and I came up with: just try to make that 10-year-old me who was paralyzed in a hospital bed proud. That was my goal and I think I did that,” said Riech.
“I think it’s great. I’m pretty overwhelmed right now. I’m just really proud of my team and everyone who has helped me get here. Canada had a great go this last couple of weeks, so it’s awesome to be part of that.”
Also in the 1500m race, which combined T37 and T38 athletes, Liam Stanley (Victoria, BC) was fifth in a time of 4:06.95, which is a new Paralympic best mark for a T37 classification runner.
“I executed the race the way I wanted to execute it. I just didn’t have the finish that the guys ahead of me had,” said Stanley. “I’m proud of the effort I put in and if I wasn’t going to medal, I was going to walk away from here with a record. It’s a really big achievement.”
Throwing on a rain-drenched night in Tokyo, Renee Foessel (Orangeville, ON) just missed the podium in the women’s F38 discus. Foessel opened strong in the combined F37/F38 sport class event, throwing what was then a new F38 Paralympic record of 32.23 metres on her first attempt. But that mark didn’t last and wasn’t enough to hold onto a medal position, as a strong world-record setting field pushed her down to fourth, which matches her result from the Rio 2016 Games. In the same event, Jenn Brown (Calgary, AB) finished eighth with her best throw of 27.57.
“The pouring rain was very difficult but we went in prepared for the elements, we had a game plan, and we executed it the best we could,” said Foessel. “I was hoping to achieve a better result but when it comes to the day, you have to go out there and do the best you can. Today, unfortunately, that was just the best I could do.”
Rounding out Canada’s Para athletics results, Austin Smeenk (Oakville, ON) was fifth in the men’s T34 800m final while Thomas Normandeau (Peace River, AB) posted a sixth place in his first Paralympic final, the men’s T47 400m.
Canada faced off against Brazil for the second time in the women’s sitting volleyball tournament in Tokyo, this time with a bronze medal on the line. And while it was another close thriller – after an opening five-set match in the round-robin between the two countries – Canada just came out on the losing end once again.
After dropping the first set, Canada took the second and held a 21-15 lead in the third before Brazil powered back. Bronze medallists at the Rio 2016 Games, the Brazilians closed out the match in four sets 3-1 to win their second straight Paralympic medal.
With the defeat, the Canadian squad, led by team captain Danielle Ellis (White Rock, BC), finish Tokyo 2020 in fourth. It is Canada’s best-ever result in the sport at the Paralympic Games – five years ago, the team qualified for the first time and finished seventh at Rio 2016.
“Coming into this tournament, our goal was to be in a medal match, and we did that, but fourth was never going to be enough for us,” said Ellis. “I do believe that we came and showed the world that we are deserving of our place here at the Paralympics and now we’re ready to go home and work hard to earn our spot at the podium in Paris 2024.”
All three Canadian Para canoe athletes, who were each competing at their first Paralympic Games, advanced into the finals of their events. Mathieu St-Pierre (Shawinigan, QC) earned Canada’s top result of the day, finishing fifth in the men’s VL2 200m final.
“I’m most proud of my entire support team which helped me stay healthy up to this point,” said St-Pierre, who improves upon his world championship best of seventh place. “With all the work we did together, we improved continuously. We were well prepared to come to Tokyo. We had a perfect summer with no health issues. We made seats that were better, more comfortable and allowed me to be more competitive. I’m really proud with what we’ve accomplished so far and I’m really proud of my fifth place. It’s a dream and I’m slowly getting close to the podium.”
Brianna Hennessy (Ottawa, ON) was eighth in the kayak in the women’s KL1 200m race, a day after she finished fifth in the va’a boat (VL2 200m). Andrea Nelson (Markham, ON) was eighth in the women’s KL2 200m final.
Shooting Para Sport
In their final event of Tokyo 2020, Para shooters Doug Blessin (Port Coquitlam, BC) and Lyne Tremblay (Magog, QC) competed in the mixed 50m rifle prone SH2. Blessin was 28th in the qualification round, while Tremblay was 29th.
LOOKING AHEAD AT DAY 12
Brent Lakatos will have a busy day to close out the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. He is the only Canadian in competition on Day 12, with the men’s T54 marathon starting at 6:30 a.m. JST / 5:30 p.m. ET (Saturday). Lakatos, who is racing in a Paralympic marathon for the first time, has four silver medals to his name at the Games so far, in the 100m, 400m, 800m, and 5000m distances.
He will then carry the flag for Canada at the Closing Ceremony, starting at 8 p.m. JST / 7 a.m. ET.
Click here for the complete Canadian Paralympic Team results on September 4 and schedule for September 5.