Big day for Nova Sco­tia on the wa­ter

Pad­dler de Jonge wins gold, McCoombs and Rus­sell claim sil­ver medals

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY LORI EWING

Canada’s Mark de Jonge and Lau­rence Vin­cent Lapointe soaked up the spotlight as Pan Amer­i­can gold medal­lists on Tues­day.

Now the two world cham­pion pad­dlers face far dif­fer­ent fu­tures.

De Jonge, 31, from Hal­i­fax, cap­tured gold in the K-1 200 me­tres, and has his sights set on the top of the medal podium at next year’s Rio Olympics.

Vin­cent-Lapointe, from TroisRivieres, Que., dom­i­nated the women’s C-1 200 in the event’s Pan Am Games de­but, roar­ing to gold by a mar­gin of more than two sec­onds.

But women’s ca­noe isn’t on the pro­gram for the 2016 Olympics, and Vin­cent Lapointe hasn’t de­cided whether she’ll com­pete un­til 2020, when it’s ex­pected to be added. The 23year-old also plans on at­tend­ing med­i­cal school at some point.

The two gold medals high­lighted a five-medal day for Canada at the Wel­land Flat­wa­ter Cen­tre. Canada fin­ished with 10 medals in the sprint events, and now switches to Min­den, Ont., for the slalom events.

De Jonge and Pierre-Luc Poulin also earned a bronze in the men’s K-2 200 me­tres, earn­ing a tie with Brazil.

Jason McCoombs of Dart­mouth, N.S., added a sil­ver in the C-1 200 me­tres, while Michelle Rus­sell of Fall River, N.S., won sil­ver in the women’s K-1 200.

Canada’s pad­dling team at the Pan Ams has com­peted with one eye on those worlds next month in Mi­lan, which dou­ble as Olympic qual­i­fy­ing. De Jonge said the pad­dlers couldn’t af­ford to peak for the Pan Ams.

“We were train­ing pretty hard last week and didn’t have that ta­per go­ing into this as much as we would for worlds,’’ de Jonge said. “But you just have to deal with it, the long-term goal is qual­i­fy­ing for the Olympics, and ul­ti­mately win a gold medal at the Olympics.’’

De Jonge was a big story three years ago at the Lon­don Olympics, win­ning bronze af­ter de­cid­ing to put his en­gi­neer­ing ca­reer on hold to fo­cus on pad­dling. He had missed qual­i­fy­ing for both the 2004 and ‘08 Games, while jug­gling fin­ish­ing his en­gi­neer­ing de­gree and then work­ing full-time as a civil engi­neer.

“I found that to be a bit of a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially with all the chal­lenge of trav­el­ling as well, go­ing away for a month at a time while try­ing to learn some pretty hard ma­te­rial was a big chal­lenge,’’ he said. “Right now I’m at a place where this is my one goal.’’

De Jonge won the world cham­pi­onships last year, and is near the top of his game now.

“Now the story is re­ally dif­fer­ent, I’m a full-time ath­lete now, I’ve been train­ing con­sis­tently for sev­eral years to­ward this one goal, and I’m up at that 99 per­centile work­ing on these lit­tle de­tails that I didn’t have time to work on back then,’’ said de Jonge. “It’s more re­fined, and (it’s about) see­ing my­self on the top of that podium.’’

A day af­ter fans baked in the sun at the re­fur­bished Wel­land Flat­wa­ter Cen­tre, pad­dlers com­peted in in­ter­mit­tent down­pours on Tues­day. The rain didn’t keep the fans away though as the pad­dling venue en­joyed a packed house once again.

In the first race of the day, Cana­di­ans Han­nah Vaughan and Em­i­lie Four­nel were fourth in the women’s K-2 500, miss­ing the podium by just five-hun­dredths of a sec­ond.

CP PHOTO

Mark de Jonge of Hal­i­fax pad­dles his way to a gold medal in the men’s K1 200m kayak race at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Wel­land, Ont., Tues­day.

CP PHOTO

Jason McCoombs of Dart­mouth ac­cepts his sil­ver medal for the men’s C1 200m ca­noe race at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Wel­land, Ont., Tues­day.

CP PHOTO

Michelle Rus­sell of Fall River N.S., ac­cepts her sil­ver medal for K1 200m kayak race at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Wel­land, Ont., Tues­day.

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