Chef de mission Curt Harnett thrilled with Canada’s performance in Week 1
Curt Harnett’s voice was raspy, so he was trying to take it easy over the weekend. He hiked up and down the stairs at Varsity Stadium, tossing pins into the crowd at the Pan American Games archery competition, in between waving a huge Canadian flag.
But Canada’s chef de mission — and the team’s head cheerleader — was otherwise keeping quiet.
“Still able to talk (barely), which is a good thing,” Harnett said. “I hit it hard. Of course water polo started on the Wednesday before the opening ceremonies, and I kind of maybe overdid it a little bit.
“I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve tried to stay quiet, and the crowd’s doing their job. But I can’t contain myself, I’m emotionally invested in all of this, the success of our athletes is important to me as a person, it’s a sense of pride that I can’t seem to shake.”
A little over a week into the Pan American Games, there has been plenty of reason to be proud and vocal.
Canada topped the medal table through most of Week 1 before falling to second Saturday night.
The United States led with 50 gold and 135 total medals. Canada had 48 gold and 122 medals through Saturday. Brazil was a distant third in both, with 28 gold and 86 medals overall.
But Canada boosted its gold medal total to 52 heading into Sunday’s late evening events.
Evan Dunfee started things off with gold in the men’s 20-kilometre race walk. His teammate Inaki Gomez captured the silver.
Canada had another one-two finish in the women’s track cycling sprint, with Monique Sullivan defeating fellow Calgary cyclist Kate O’Brien in the final.
Jazmyne Denhollander paddled to gold in the women’s K1 whitewater kayak, and Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan defended her Pan Am title in women’s trampoline.
The Canadians, who came in with a goal of a top-two finish, have never won the Pan Am Games. Canada’s best finish was second in Winnipeg in 1967. But as the host country, Canada compiled its largest — and arguably strongest — team ever, of 719 athletes, and the results are showing.
“The performance of the team is on par with what our targets were. . . and of course knowing that, with the number of athletes that we were bringing, specifically A team athletes, that performance on the field of play would be top shelf and put them on the podium,” said Harnett, a three-time Olympic medallist in track cycling.
“I think the more exciting thing is the athletes who have risen to the occasion, have taken advantage of the home court, homefield advantage and the home crowd, and raised their game, and captured gold medals,” he added. “So it’s a great combination.”
Canada’s Evan Dunfee reacts as he crosses the finish to win the men’s 20km race walk at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, Ont., Sunday.