Santiago 2023 Day 7 Recap: Canada takes gold, qualifies for Paris 2024 in women’s goalball on 11-medal day

Alexandre Hayward and Mel Pemble golden in Para track cycling
Canada's women's goalball team with their medals - Maryam Salehizadeh, Amy Burk, Brieann Baldock, Emma Reinke, Meghan Mahon, and Whitney Bogart

SANTIAGO – Canada captured 11 medals across six sports for its best day yet at the Santiago 2023 Parapan Am Games on Friday.

MEDALS WON ON NOVEMBER 24

GOLD – Women’s Goalball Team
GOLD – Alexandre Hayward, Para Cycling (Track), Men’s C1-3 3000m Individual Pursuit
GOLD – Mel Pemble, Para Cycling (Track), Women’s C1-3 3000m Individual Pursuit
SILVER – Rob Shaw, Wheelchair Tennis, Quad Singles
SILVER – Keely Shaw, Para Cycling (Track), Women’s C4-5 3000m Individual Pursuit
SILVER – Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team
BRONZE – Men’s Goalball Team
BRONZE – Jesse Zesseu, Para Athletics, Men’s T37/38 Long Jump
BRONZE – Renee Foessel, Para Athletics, Women’s F38 Discus
BRONZE – Mike Sametz, Para Cycling (Track), Men’s C1-3 3000m Individual Pursuit
BRONZE – Justine Morrier, Para Swimming, Women’s S14 100 Butterfly

OVERALL MEDAL TOTAL

GOLD – 8
SILVER – 12
BRONZE – 20
TOTAL – 40

RESULTS SUMMARY

Goalball
It was a winner take-all situation in the women’s goalball final on Friday, with the champion not only claiming gold but also the only spot available for an Americas country in next summer’s Paralympic Games. And with a 4-3 victory over the United States, it is Canada who takes home the glory.

The team, who had lost to the Americans to open the Games, performed when it mattered most. Scoring two goals early, Canada led 2-0 before the U.S. tied it heading into the half. Two penalty shots scored by Emma Reinke were the difference, as the Canadians held on for the triumph. It is Canada’s first Parapan Am gold medal in goalball, with the women previously capturing three bronzes.

“It’s amazing. To be Parapan American champion and a ticket to Paris, this is what we came here to do,” said Amy Burk. “We’ve been working so hard these past couple years, to finally have it all come together is amazing. This game was the calmest our team has been.”

“It’s wild, I couldn’t have asked to do this with a better group of girls,” said Meghan Mahon. “We’ve really been fighting so hard and working so much on our culture, and coming out and worrying about ourselves. That’s what we did today, and it led us to standing on top.”

On the men’s side, Canada closed with its best game yet, taking down Argentina 6-2 to win bronze, matching its result from the Lima 2019 Games. The squad had lost to the Argentines earlier in the week but turned it around for the podium finish.

“We had the belief we could accomplish the medal,” said Blair Nesbitt, who notched a hat trick. “After a tough loss that prevented us from qualifying for the Paralympic Games we just stayed as a team and believed in each other. We executed a bit better today, but it was the belief in each other that was the key.”

Para Cycling – Track
Canada went four-for-four in the 3000m individual pursuit in Para track cycling Friday, with each athlete in competition capturing a medal. Mel Pemble and Alexandre Hayward both were golden, winning their respective categories – the women’s C1-3 and men’s C1-3.

Pemble qualified in second for the right to race for gold, but knew she had more in her as she took first place in the final, in a new C3 Parapan Am record time of 4:10.103.  

“I wasn’t super happy with my time there [in qualifying], I knew I had more in me,” said Pemble, who also won a silver in the time trial. “It made the battle all the sweeter in the final, in terms of being in second place with nothing to lose. Everything went well and I tried to kick it up a notch in the last kilometre and it paid off.”

Hayward qualified in first earlier in the day, and then took home the gold, besting Colombian Alejandro Perea Arango in the gold medal duel. En route, he set two new C3 Parapan Am records, ending with his time of 3:26.642 in the final. Hayward now has stood on the podium in all three of his races in Santiago so far, winning two gold and a bronze. Two of those podiums have been with teammate Mike Sametz, who also raced to the podium in the individual pursuit on Friday, winning bronze.

“For me this is the first time doing two pursuits back-to-back,” said Hayward. “I keep coming back to having had a bit of a rough season, and to prove to myself that I can do two back-to-back, and have the best two times I’ve ever put down, it just felt good.”

Keely Shaw added silver in the women’s C4-5 race, and set a new C4 Parapan Am record of 3:46.931 in qualifying. Shaw won bronze in this event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“This was my main event, and one of my big goals coming here was to set a Parapan American record, so I’m very happy with that result,” Shaw said.

Wheelchair Basketball
Canada will take home the silver in women’s wheelchair basketball following a 62-56 loss to USA in the final. Though it was close battle throughout, the Americans never trailed in the game. Kady Dandeneau and Arinn Young set the pace for Canada with 19 and 15 points each.

“We’re super disappointed,” said Tara Llanes. “I thought we played well, we were communicating, we had teamwork, some of our shots didn’t fall but we were executing the game plan we wanted to execute. They [the U.S.] had some good shots, I can’t take that away from them.”

The defeat means the team will now have to play a last-chance qualification tournament for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, set for Japan in April.

“For us, it’s coming down to playing 40 solid minutes, which we didn’t do,” said Dandeneau. “But I think we’re a better team. We know we’re a better team. They had to play really well to beat us. We’ll get them in Paris. It just fuels the fire, I’m ready to play them again.”

With a 64-53 loss to Colombia in the semifinals, the Canadian men will now play for the bronze medal. Canada led 17-14 after the first quarter but were held to just seven points in the second as Colombia took a 10-point lead into the half and maintained momentum. Pat Anderson had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Canada, with Nik Goncin adding 15 points and Colin Higgins 10 points. 

“They played in fourth gear from the jump all the way through,” said Anderson. “We screamed past fourth gear into fifth gear in the second half, but it was a bit too little, too late, and too much, too late. We were pressing but that’s what you have to do when you’re down. We fought all the way to the end and I’m proud of that but it’s going to take a reset tomorrow to come out in third or fourth gear instead of first or second.”

The men now need to finish third in Santiago to play in April’s last-chance qualification tournament for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. They will face Argentina on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. local / 12:30 p.m. ET.

“They’re all big games at this point,” said Canada’s Bo Hedges. “Argentina is a great team, so we need to focus on what we can do and what we can learn from the first time we played them.”

Wheelchair Tennis
It was an intense two hour and 19 minute thriller, but Rob Shaw just came out on the losing end in the quad singles final to finish with the silver medal. The final score was 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in favour of Chilean Francisco Cayulef.

“I feel good, Cayulef earned it,” said Shaw. “He went for his shots, I don’t think I’ve seen someone hit that close to the line or on the lines that consistently, and that’s fearless tennis. For him to do that under the pressure of the home crowd, impressive, so I’m quite happy with the match.”

Shaw, gold medallist four years ago, now owns two Parapan Am medals.

“I left it all out there,” said Canada’s co-Opening Ceremony flag bearer. “I’m super proud with what I put out there compared to my match yesterday. I thought it was good quality tennis, I thought it was entertaining, and at the end of the day, as an athlete that’s all I can hope for is to put out a good product.”  

Para Athletics
It was two bronze medals for Canada in Para athletics, with Jesse Zesseu and Renee Foessel standing atop the podium.

Foessel, a two-time Paralympian and former world record holder in this event, threw 35.01 metres in the women’s F38 discus which earned her third place. In the same event, Canadian Laura Calovini was eighth.

“I feel good, I came in here and I was very excited to be against all these competitors,” said Foessel. “My field is so strong, and they came out tonight.”

“Every time you get the chance to represent Canada, it’s a privilege, to travel and see everybody,” she added. “My heart is so full with this competition today. Although it might not have necessarily gone the way I wanted, the whole experience together, the staff, the team members, the Village experience, my heart is full today.”

In his first Parapan Am Games, Zesseu is now a multi-medallist. The discus silver medallist added a bronze in the men’s T37/38 long jump on Friday, with a best leap of 5.78 metres.

“I was expecting to medal in discus, but I was just looking to have fun in long jump,” said Zesseu. “Getting a medal out of it is amazing, it just proves I can do both.”

And in the T54 100m, Isaiah Christophe finished fourth.

Para Swimming
Justine Morrier won a bronze medal to give Canada 10 total medals in the pool as Para swimming action ended in Santiago. With a time of 1:13.44, Morrier was third in the women’s S14 100m butterfly, her first Parapan Am medal. Teammate Emma Van Dyck was sixth in the same race.

“After the disappointment of my 200m breaststroke, it’s a real relief,” said Morrier. “I felt good in the water, I was ready to race, I was focused, and I absolutely wanted to get a medal. I told myself, go Justine, go!”

In other results, Alisson Gobeil was fourth in the women’s 100m freestyle S5, Felix Cowan fifth in the men’s 50m freestyle S9, Caleb Arndt fourth and Hunter Helberg fifth in the men’s 200m individual medley SM13, Fernando Lu sixth in the men’s 100m backstroke S10, Connor Bissett sixth and Jesse Canney seventh in the men’s 100m butterfly S14, and Myriam Soliman eighth in the women’s 100m freestyle S7.

Canada was also fifth in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay, with Gobeil, Jagdev Gill, Lu, and Soliman.

Boccia
Preliminary play wrapped up in pairs and team action in boccia, with Canada’s BC4 pair and BC1-2 team moving into the semifinals.

Lance Cryderman, Kristyn Collins, and Danik Allard pulled off two big BC1-2 team wins, over Ecuador 11-1 and Brazil 11-2 to go 2-0 in group play. The trio will now play Chile in the semifinals.

In the BC4 tournament, Alison Levine and Iulian Ciobanu finished round-robin action with a 1-1 record after dropping a 4-1 decision to Brazil, good enough to advance into the semifinals. Mexico awaits them on Saturday.  

Joelle Guerette and Ryan Rondeau will not advance in BC3 pairs after finishing 1-2 in group play. On Friday, the duo fell to Brazil before ending on a high note with a 6-2 triumph against Guatemala.

Para Badminton
Four Canadians are set for bronze medal matches in Para badminton after falling in the semifinals on Friday – Olivia Meier in the women’s SL4 singles event, Pascale Lapointe in men’s singles SL4, and Bernard Lapointe and Mikhail Bilenky in men’s doubles WH1-WH2.

Bilenky meanwhile picked up a singles victory and is now through to the WH1 semifinals.

In other knockout stage results, Wyatt Lightfoot lost in the men’s SH6 quarterfinals.

Group play continued in a few other categories. In men’s singles WH2, Bernard Lapointe picked up a win to advance into the semifinals with a 2-1 record.

Colleen Cloetta, who competed in Para swimming at the 2019 Parapan Am Games, dropped her final match in women’s singles SH6 and will not advance with a 1-2 record. In the mixed doubles SH6, she teamed with Justin Kendrick to pick up a win. The pair still have one group stage match remaining.  

And in the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 tournament, Pascale Lapointe and Meier closed out preliminary play with a defeat and will not move on.

CLICK HERE for the complete results on Friday November 24.