Win­nipeg run­ner quick­sil­ver

Si­fuentes takes sec­ond place in women’s 1,500 me­tres

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - FOOTBALL - By Ed Klajman

TORONTO – Eight one-hun­dredths of a sec­ond. That’s what sep­a­rated Win­nipeg’s Ni­cole Si­fuentes from a gold medal in the 1,500 me­tres at the Pan Am Games Satur­day night.

Over the last 50 me­tres, she was stride for stride with Colom­bian Muriel Co­neo. As they strained to reach the fin­ish line, Co­neo leaned in just ahead of the 29-year-old Vin­cent Massey Col­le­giate grad. Co­neo had a per­sonal best time of 4:09.05, with Si­fuentes at 4:09.13 and fel­low Cana­dian Sasha Gol­lish tak­ing the bronze in 4:10.11.

“I was on the gold so that’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing, but at the same time, com­ing down the home stretch I did not give up,” said Si­fuentes, who is the reign­ing na­tional cham­pion in the 1,500. “Ev­ery sec­ond I thought, maybe she’ll fal­ter, but she didn’t, but nei­ther did I. I ran as hard as I could so I have no re­grets. I def­i­nitely would have liked to hear our na­tional an­them, but it’s still great to have two on the podium. It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

Si­fuentes re­flected back to her first in­ter­na­tional meet rep­re­sent­ing Canada — the world ju­nior cham­pi­onships in Sher­brooke, Que., in 2003. She had gone an en­tire ca­reer since then with­out rac­ing in front of her coun­try’s sup­port­ers un­til Satur­day.

“Be­cause of that it’s a mem­ory I’ll cher­ish for­ever,” she said. “It was so fun to run in front of the home crowd.”

It’s also mean­ing­ful be­cause it is not only her high­est place­ment at a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional event — she won bronze at the in­door world cham­pi­onships last year in Poland — but her first time ac­tu­ally stand­ing on the podium for a medal cer­e­mony.

“I was pro­moted to bronze in Poland be­cause third place was dis­qual­i­fied and she re­ceived a medal on the podium. So even though I won a medal, I’ve never been on the podium. I’ve never done a vic­tory lap. I’ve never held the flag, so this is go­ing to be re­ally spe­cial.”

She added she has savoured the en­tire week, as she has parked her­self in front of the TV in the lounge at the ath­letes’ vil­lage to cheer on her team­mates — many of whom have also won medals.

“I know most of them from pre­vi­ous teams so they’re my friends, and it’s been awe­some to see them do well. And I couldn’t wait to get out here tonight.”

Si­fuentes wasn’t the only Man­i­to­ban to win a medal Satur­day. Thompson rac­quet­ball vet­eran Jen­nifer Saun­ders claimed bronze in the team com­pe­ti­tion af­ter she and part­ner Fred­erique Lam­bert de­feated Ar­gentina in the quar­ter­fi­nals. Later in the day, the duo lost to an Amer­i­can pair in the semi­fi­nals, but both los­ing semi­fi­nal­ists are guar­an­teed bronze medals in rac­quet­ball.

At 38 years of age, Saun­ders is a leg­end in the sport in Canada, with 11 world cham­pi­onship ti­tles to her name. But she had never won a Pan Am medal.

“To fi­nally get one in Canada feels like a dream come true, although af­ter tonight’s event, it doesn’t feel as great, but I’m sure as things wind down and I get a chance to re­flect, I’m go­ing to be very, very pleased with my re­sult,” she said. “I re­mem­ber be­ing young and you think ‘Yeah, I’m go­ing to have a mil­lion chances at this.’ But now I know that this could be one of my last chances, cer­tainly my last chance for a Pan Am Games at home. It re­ally is what I al­ways imag­ined an Olympic Games would feel like. So I have just been re­ally happy to be here.”

To­day is the fi­nal day of com­pe­ti­tion at the Games. Two Man­i­to­bans on the men’s vol­ley­ball team — Toon Van Lankvelt and Dustin Sch­nei­der — have a chance for bronze when Canada faces Puerto Rico.

FRANK GUNN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Win­nipeg’s Ni­cole Si­fuentes (third from right) and Cana­dian team­mate Sasha Gol­lish (fourth from right) fin­ished sec­ond and third re­spec­tively in the women’s 1,500 fi­nal.

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