Meet some of the U of T athletes winning medals and breaking records at the Pan Am Games
The University of Toronto’s rower Kate Sauks has won gold, equestrienne Brenda Trussell won team silver –and swimmer Zack Chetrat and badminton player Michelle Li have each won bronze medals at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
Twenty U of T alumni and students are competing in the Games, with hometown crowds cheering them on through social media and in person at venues across the province – including the University. (Read more about the Games venues at U of T.)
Sauks, a former Varsity Blue athlete who competed in pentathlon and pole vaulting as an undergraduate, took up rowing relatively late in life at the suggestion of her sister, who was on U of T’s rowing team – and won U of T's 2009 Rookie of the Year Award for the sport. Sauks graduated from U of T in October, 2014 with a PhD in rehabilitation sciences and anatomy and began training full time in January.
Sauks and partner Liz Fenjehe won gold July 14 in the women's lightweight double sculls, leading the race at the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course from start to finish. The team finished the 2,000-metre race in a time of 6:57.23, slightly more than three seconds ahead of a team from Cuba. A boat from the United States finished third, more than 6.5 seconds back.
While rowing took place in St. Catharines, swimmer Chetrat was able to win bronze at his home pool – at UTSC’s Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) – on July 14.
Competing in the 200m butterfly, Chetrat hit the clock at 1:56:90, smashing the previous Canadian record set by Stefan Herniak in the 2010 Commonwealth Games of 1:57.01. Chetrat, a former Varsity Blue swimmer who graduated with a degree in economics and political science from U of T last year, has been training at the new aquatics centre at UTSC. In an interview with Hart House before the Games, Chetrat talked about how the Games are an opportunity to "get behind our city" and what it's like to train at UTSC.
“We all get to perform at our best in front of a hometown crowd. In terms of the legacy of the Games, the pool I train in is a world class pool. And it’s open to the general public. We’re talking about an Olympic caliber pool. That’s unheard of. It’s so exciting. The infrastructure is also really good for the community. Everything’s that’s being built isn’t going anywhere after the Pan Ams. All that growth is going to go to the people of Toronto, which is very exciting for me.”
With a number of swimming records smashed in the Games already, the TPASC pool is making a name for itself as a fast venue.
“It’s very exciting to have these events here, but for the long-term TPASC is a game-changer for us,” UTSC Principal Bruce Kidd recently told CBC’s Metro Morning. “It will provide new opportunities for students and the community that we could only have dreamt of before.”
President Meric Gertler has been a presence throughout the Games, even posting on his Instagram account a shot he snapped of Chetrat on TPASC's giant screen.
Alumna Trussell was the first member of the U of T community to gain the podium, as a member of the Canadian equestrian team which took silver on the weekend. Trussell narrowly missed winning a second medal – finishing fourth in the individual dressage event in Caledon – on July 14. (Read more about Trussell here.)
Badminton player and former student Li is Canada's top-ranked women’s singles player. She and frequent training partner Rachel Honderich decided to compete in doubles at the Games, facing an American duo July 14. Li and Honderich wound up with a bronze medal.
Li told the Markham Economist & Sun that their top-ranked U.S. counterparts, who play together as a team more often, were a better team that day.
“They are very focused on doubles, they’re doubles players, and I guess we had a lot of trouble dealing with their shots. They are very offensive, and I guess singles and doubles — it doesn’t mix well. We weren’t defending well enough to be able to pull off the win,” Li said after the match. “They were very quick at the net and very strong and very aggressive, so we had a lot of trouble trying to get out of that.”
Li, 23, and Honderich, 19, will compete against each other for the gold medal in women's singles at 2 p.m. on July 16.