Dramatic Women’s Soccer Win Caps Huge Day for Canada at Tokyo Games

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
August 6, 2021 Updated: August 6, 2021

TOKYO—Moments after Julia Grosso’s kick deflected off the hands of the Swedish keeper and into the goal, her Canadian teammates charged onto the pitch at Tokyo Stadium in jubilation.

Canada’s women’s soccer team are finally gold medallists, and their dramatic win in the gold-medal match capped a huge day for Canada at the Tokyo Games.

Canada captured four medals on the day, equalling its highest single-day output in Tokyo. Three of them came within hours of each other, with Moh Ahmed claiming silver in the men’s 5,000 metres and the Andre De Grasse-led 4×100 relay sprint team earning bronze.

The result made De Grasse the most decorated Canadian male Olympian with six medals—one gold, one silver and four bronze.

With the four medals, Canada equalled the 22 it won four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, with chances to add to that in sprint canoe, track cycling and other events over the weekend.

Canada sat 12th on the medal table after Friday with six gold, six silver and 10 bronze medals. Canadian athletes won four gold, three silver and 15 bronze in Rio. In total medals, Canada moved past New Zealand and South Korea into 11th.

China led the medal standings with 36 gold medals, five more than the United States. The Americans had a commanding lead in overall medals with 98. China was next at 79.

Canada’s latest gold came in nail-biting fashion with a 3-2 win on penalty kicks over favoured Sweden national team after the teams were tied 1-1 following extra time.

After each team scored on two of five tries from the penalty spot, Canadian goaltender Stephanie Labbe stopped Jonna Andersson’s attempt to set up the dramatic finish. Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl got a piece of Grosso’s hard shot but couldn’t stop it from finding the back of the net.

The ecstatic Canadian players ran down the field to mob Grosso and Labbe in celebration. The dejected Swedish players gathered at midfield to ponder what went wrong.

“It feels amazing. Wow. Super, super proud of my team,” defender Kadeisha Buchanan said. “It’s a feeling I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Stina Blackstenius scored in the 34th minute for Sweden, but Canada’s Jessie Fleming equalized from the penalty spot in the 67th minute.

When the game went to penalty kicks, Fleming gave Canada an early lead before Nathalie Bjorn and Olivia Schough tallied for Sweden. Deanne Rose delivered with Canada’s fifth shot to pull even.

Organizers moved the start time of this year’s final to 9 p.m. (local time) from the original 11 a.m. kickoff after both federations requested a change to avoid the peak midday heat and humidity.

The venue was also moved from Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium to International Stadium Yokohama, just outside the host city. It was still hot and muggy at game time, but more bearable than the sweltering conditions earlier in the day.

Back at the track, Canada’s first Olympic medal in the men’s 5,000 came courtesy of the man who has blazed a trail for Canadian distance runners on the global scene in the past few years.

Ahmed went from fifth to second on the final turn of the last lap, then challenged race-winner Joshua Cheptegei for gold but he couldn’t catch the Ugandan.

Cheptegei finished in 12 minutes 58.15 seconds followed by Ahmed at 12:58.61. Paul Chelimo of the United States took bronze in 12:59.05.

Justyn Knight of Toronto finished seventh in the 5,000 in 13:04.38.

The 30-year-old Ahmed opened the Tokyo Olympics with a sixth place in the 10,000 metres, taking the lead with less than two laps to go before running out of gas over the final 300 metres.

He didn’t run out of gas this time.

Instead he passed three runners heading into the race’s final stretch—Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo, Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli of Kenya and Chelimo—for his first Olympic medal in his third Games.

“Every disappointment, every race that didn’t go to plan has got me here,” Ahmed said. “Especially in Canada, they remember the disappointment in my face, the tears I was shedding on live TV five years ago (when he finished fourth at the Rio Olympics). But honestly, I needed that to grow as an athlete to work even harder.”

In the 4×100 relay, De Grasse ran a blistering anchor leg as Canada finished in a season-best time of 37.7 seconds.

Italy finished first in 37.5 seconds, followed by Britain in 37.51.

De Grasse led a team that included Toronto’s Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake of Kelowna, B.C., and Toronto’s Brendon Rodney.

“It’s always a great feeling. This is amazing, to win my sixth medal, just super happy,” De Grasse said. “Of course, just try to keep getting better every time. I look forward to Paris in (three) years and try to do it again.”

It’s Canada’s second straight Olympic bronze in the event.

De Grasse anchored Canada to bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Canadians narrowly missed making the final at the 2019 world championships.

Canada won gold in the event at the 1996 Atlanta Games with a team that included Donovan Bailey, who also won the 100 metres at that Games, and Bruny Surin.

The first Canadian medallist of the day was Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., who claimed bronze in the men’s 50-kilometre race walk.

But in the post-victory moments usually reserved for celebrating athletic accomplishments and the hard work it took to make them happen, Dunfee’s elation was mixed with frustration.

The 30-year-old lamented the International Olympic Committee’s decision to pull the 50k from future Summer Games. The event is being removed for gender balance—there is no women’s 50k.

“It’s really does just break my heart,” said an emotional Dunfee during the post-race press conference. “The solution would have been to put a women’s 50k in. The women deserve it.”

“It’s absolute bollocks the excuse the IOC gives for why they’re getting out of the event. They don’t like it. It’s a free event. They can’t make money off of it.”

“I think we’ve proven time and time again, it’s an exciting race, it’s an Olympic race. The 50k is the epitome of what it means to endure. It’s the longest foot race of the Olympic Games.”

Fifth when the bell sounded on his final lap—the last of 25 laps of a two-kilometre loop—Dunfee picked off Portugal’s Joao Vieira and then caught Spain’s Marc Tur over the final 200 metres.

Summoning thoughts of friends and family watching him on television back home, as well as the memory of his late grandmother, propelled Dunfee to the podium.

“At that point in the race, I was just thinking about my friends and family back home walking every step of the way with me, and thinking about my nana who would have been walking every step of the way with me,” he said.

Meanwhile on the track, Toronto’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford finished fifth in the women’s 1,500 metres.

DeBues-Stafford was among the leaders for much of the race, but fell back once the three medallists took charge of the race over the final lap.

“They found another gear at 300 or 250 (meters to go), and I was like ‘(expletive) I don’t got this,” DeBues-Stafford said.

Faith Kipyegon of Kenya defended her 1,500 title in 3:53.11. She was followed by Laura Muir of Britain (3:54.500) and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands (3:55.86).

On Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway, canoe sprinters Laurence Vincent-Lapointe and Katie Vincent put themselves in a good position to earn another medal for Canada in the sport.

Vincent-Lapointe of Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Vincent of Mississauga, Ont., advanced to Saturday’s semifinal of the C-2 500 metres after winning their quarterfinal in two minutes 2.259 seconds.

The Canadian pair, world champions in 2017 and 2018, failed to move directly from the heat to the semifinal after crossing the finish line with a time of 2:02.170, one second behind the second-place team from Germany.

“We approached our (Friday) races one at a time, doing our best to stick to our race plan. I’m happy it worked out well,” said Vincent-Lapointe, who won silver in the C-1 200 the day before.

In the pool, Nathan Zsombor-Murray of Pointe-Claire, Que., put together an impressive six-dive performance to advance to the semifinal of the men’s 10-metre platform. The 18-year-old totalled 443.85 points to qualify in fifth position.

Fellow Canadian Rylan Wiens of Pike Lake, Sask., missed the semifinal by the smallest of margins. He finished 19th, one-tenth of a point below the final qualifying position.

At the velodrome, track cyclists Kelsey Mitchell of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Lauriane Genest of Levis, Que., first survived qualifying, then won two heats each to move onto the round of 16 in the women’s sprint.

Earlier Friday, Canada’s Brooke Henderson shot a 71 to stay at par in women’s golf. The product of Smiths Falls, Ont. sits in a four-way tie for 40th.

Hamilton’s Alena Sharp had a 2-under 69 to improve her standing and sit a shot back of Henderson in sole possession of 44th.

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press