Beijing Brief: Two More Medals Come in Taekwondo, Canoe-Kayak

On Day 14, Canada earned two podium appearances resulting from efforts on the mat and in a canoe. Karine Sergerie narrowly missed gold in winning a taekwondo silver medal while Thomas Hall won bronze in the C-1 1,000 metres.

Their two medals ratchets up Canada’s 2008 count to 17, good for 13th spot in the overall medal count. It also marks the fourth-best summer total for Canada, with a good chance to surpass the 18 medals won in 1992 in Barcelona.

In taekwondo, points are given for kick or hand blows to the chest or head of the opponent. As matches at the Olympics Games have illustrated, emphasis is on the kicking aspect. Karine Sergerie of Sainte-Catherine, Que., was locked in a gold medal showdown with Hwang Kyungseon of South Korea Friday night. In a close match where both athletes stayed patient and choose their strikes carefully, the Korean defeated Sergerie 2-1.

The result was a silver medal for Sergerie, who is the reigning world champion in the 63 kg weight class while Kyungseon is world champion in the 67 kg class. (Sergerie was entered in the 67 kg class in Beijing.) Sergerie, the first Canadian taekwondo world champion, beat three opponents to reach the final in her first Olympic appearance. It arose later that Sergerie had suffered a broken baby toe in her first bout of the day.

“It is difficult, it was a very strategic fight,” Sergerie said. “I missed legs at the end. I am very competitive, and I wanted the gold at all costs, so I am a little bit disappointed. But I am young, I will be 27 years old in four years, and I am going to pursue my dream of winning a gold medal. I am happy to have won a medal, even if it is not the one that I wanted, but I am proud. The flag is going to be in the center the next time, and I want to hear the national anthem.”

Hall Powers Canoe to Bronze

Thomas Hall, of Pointe-Claire, Que., won Canada’s initial medal on Friday by capturing bronze in the men’s C-1 1,000 m event at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park. He has competed at multiple World Championships but this marks Hall’s first Olympic competition.

And he made the most of it, finishing third in the final with a time of 53.653 seconds. He was fifth about halfway through the course, but passed two competitors to win the bronze medal.

Said Hall: “My key word today was ‘hard’ and every time I thought I was going to slow down I said ‘harder’. I knew with 100 metres to go I could catch Menkov who was in third. I wasn’t feeling anything at that point. This is indescribable right now. I can’t put this into words.”

Hall mentioned he Hall said he was keeping an eye on Vadim Menkov, a paddler from Uzbekistan, all through the race. He kept close, within striking distance, before passing Menkov for bronze in the home stretch. His medal goes along with two victories from the recent World Cup circuit.

Hall’s teammate, Oakville, Ontario’s Adam van Koeverden, didn’t fare as well on Friday. He was expected to challenge for a medal in the K-1 1,000 m – and did for the majority of the race. But he faded in the last 200 metres to finish eighth. He won bronze in this event four years ago in Athens.

“I have no explanation,” van Koeverden said. “All I have is an apology and I hate watching people apologize after a bad performance, but now I know why they do it, because there was a lot of pressure on me. That pressure amounted to expectations of people back home, and I always talk about how great performances by Canadian athletes can be inspiring and motivating. I didn’t contribute to that at all today.”

Van Koeverden will race in his better event, the K-1 500 m, this weekend.

On Friday in the men’s C-2 1,000 m race, Andrew Russell of Dartmouth, N.S., and Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny of Trois-Rivieres, Que., finished sixth in a time of 41.165 seconds. Russell said it was an “excellent” result for the pair whose goal coming into the Games was to make the finals.

Also in action was the men’s K-4 1,000 m team of Brady Reardon (Burlington, Ont.), Chris Pellini (Port Credit, Ont.), and Rhys Hill and Angus Mortimer of Ottawa. That boat finished ninth in the fast-paced race.

“We are a very young crew and have learned so much from our first Olympic experience,” said Hill. “We were only six seconds behind the gold medal crew which is good as we are usually eight or nine seconds back. We improved a great deal this week. ”

Canadians in Four Athletics Finals

It was another busy day in the Bird’s Nest, though much drier than Thursday. Edmonton’s Tim Berrett, competing in his fifth Olympic Games, was 38th in the men’s 50 km race walk. He finished the difficult event in a time of four hours, eight minutes and 18 seconds. He said: “Everything hurts, I’m just drained. At half, I started to feel it. At 35 km, I knew I was going to be struggling, but I still wanted to finish. Physically and mentally, this just takes everything out of you.”

Tabia Charles, of Pickering, Ont., competed in the finals for long jump. Her longest leap of 6.47 m was good for 10th place overall. Track teammate Megan Metcalfe of Edmonton ran the final 5,000 m race on Friday, finishing in 15th position.

To cap the day, the men’s 4×100 m relay team took to the track against the world’s best. The team of Hank Palmer, Anson Henry, Jared Connaughton and Pierre Browne had a strong showing, placing sixth in a time of 38.66 seconds. The race was won by Jamaica, which is having extraordinary success on the track at these Olympic Games. (They won in a world record time of 37.40 seconds.)

BMX Final Ends in Crash for Cools

It was a wild Olympic debut for BMX at the 2008 Games, with most races involving crashes that helped determine who finished where.

Samantha Cools, of Airdrie, Alta., successfully qualified for the BMX final, a race where all competitors ride at once. Unfortunately, she crashed soon out of the gate after striking an Argentine biker in mid-air, knocking her off balance. “At the moment, it was frustrating when I was dusting myself up,” she said. “But I was there and I learned a lot. I experienced so much for my first Olympics. So I’m just going take that on for the next one.”

Elsewhere on Day 14:

In a taekwondo bout in which points were hard to come by, Sebastien Michaud of Quebec City lost to Rashad Ahmadov of Azerbaijan. This 80 kg quarter-final match ended in a judge’s decision. “I don’t understand the decision, but I have to live with it,” said Michaud. “I was aiming for gold. I worked hard for years, and it is frustrating to lose like that and to know that I won’t have any other chance for another four years.”

Michaud had won his opening bout by a score of 2-1 over Angel Roman Martinez of Puerto Rico.

Alexandra Orlando wrapped up her Olympic Games in rhythmic gymnastics, placing 18th overall. She didn’t advance to the individual final. Said Orlando: “Overall, I’m happy with how I performed up until that last 20 seconds of my ribbon routine. I’m a perfectionist so I’m really upset about it, but when I look back on it I’m probably going to be happy that I made it through my first Olympics Games.”

In modern pentathlon action, Canada’s top two pentathletes competed in five events on Friday. Monica Pinette of Langley, B.C., finished 27th with 5,192 points while teammate Kara Grant of Stratford, P.E.I., placed 31st with 4,976. The highlight of the day was Pinette’s shooting performance, where she finished second overall. The other events were fencing, swimming, riding and running.

In decathlon, Massimo Bertocchi of Tottenham, Ont., was back in action for the second day. After the 110 m hurdles he was 17th, after the discus 18th, after the pole vault 16th, after the javelin 20th and after the 1,500 metres, 19th. A relatively busy day for the first-time Olympian.

On the 10 m platform, Canada had two divers in preliminary action. Both advanced on to the semifinal, where anything can happen. Victoria’s Riley McCormick was 14th and Regina’s Reuben Ross was right behind in 15th spot.

The men’s water polo team finished their Olympic tournament with a win. They defeated China 8-7 to wind up 11th overall. “Our team is young, so it’s sure that our next objective is London 2012,” said Jean Sayegh, who scored two goals.

The synchronized swimming team performed their technical routine Friday and came in a strong fifth place. They are tied in that spot with the United States.

“We felt great in the water,” said Tracy Little of Pointe-Claire, Que. “We accomplished what we wanted to do performance wise and showed the crowd and the judges that we are a medal contender. We have an amazing routine for the final (free routine) and we’re quite excited for tomorrow.”

In a heptathlon development, Lyudmila Blonska (Ukraine) was stripped of her silver medal, meaning that Jessica Zelinka of London, Ont. moves up to fifth place overall.