RIO DE JANEIRO — Penny Oleksiak spent her first day of competition at the Rio Games lowering her own world junior record in the 100-metre butterfly heats and anchoring Canada’s freestyle relay team to a bronze medal.
Now she can add a silver medal to her impressive Olympic debut.
The 16-year-old from Toronto finished second in Sunday’s 100-metre butterfly final, again beating her world junior mark by clocking a Canadian-record time of 56.46 seconds.
It took a world-record performance to beat Oleksiak, as Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won in 55.48 seconds. American Dana Vollmer, who won gold in the event four years ago in London, took bronze in 56.63.
Oleksiak, who is quickly becoming Canada’s face of the Rio Games, was in third place after the first 50 metres, but came on strong out of the turn to give Canada its second medal in Rio.
“The first few seconds after I touched the wall I didn’t look back. I was just trying to catch my breath,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure I’d even medalled until I looked up and saw the Canadian flags in the air around me.
“Getting to see that and getting to see that you medalled is just an amazing feeling.”
Outside of the pool, it was another good day for Canada in team sports.
The volleyball team made a statement in its first appearance since the 1992 Barcelona Games, shocking the United States 3-0 in the tournament opener for both teams.
The 12th-ranked Canadians converted their first match point for a 25-23, 25-17, 25-23 upset win over the No. 5 Americans.
“You never expect a victory quite like that,” said Canadian opposite hitter Gavin Schmitt. “But we know that we can play very well and if we focused on our own game, really took it to them and played aggressive, then we had a good chance of beating them.”
The United States made 10 service faults in the opening game. Canada closed out the second set on a 10-2 run with Nick Hoag of Sherbrooke, Que., sealing it with an ace.
Canada will continue preliminary round play Tuesday against top-ranked Brazil.
In rugby sevens action, Canada will be playing for a medal after beating France 15-5 in quarter-final action.
Bianca Farella and Ghislaine Landry, big-time scorers for Canada in Rio, scored late tries.
Kayla Moleschi tied it 5-5 for Canada in the first half after France’s Jade Le Pesq opened the scoring. Canada will face Australia, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, on Monday in the semifinal.
Canada showed perseverance after losing 22-0 by Britain in its final pool game.
“We have a saying ‘Believe you belong’ and we really believed out there. And it showed,” said veteran Ashley Steacy. “We were gritty and tenacious.”
A few other Canadian athletes just missed on adding to Canada’s medal total.
Divers Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware opened the Rio Olympics with a gut-wrenching result in the women’s three-metre synchronized event.
The duo finished fourth, less than one point behind bronze medallists Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith of Australia. Abel, from Laval Que., and Ware of Greenfield Park, Que., were the silver medallists at last year’s world championship. Abel also captured bronze in the event at the London Games four years ago with the now-retired Emilie Heymans.
“We felt good, we had good practices,” Abel said. “Unfortunately, our competition wasn’t at the same level as our performance in training. It’s unfortunate because we missed the podium by less than one point.
“At the same time, we have to look at it from the positive side. Yes, we’re capable of doing much better, yes we have another four years ahead of us. These are also the first games for Pamela (Ware), so we have to underline that.”
Chinese pair Shi Tingmao and Wu Minxia won the gold with a score of 345.60 while Italians Tania Cagnotto and Frencesca Dallape were second with 313.83 and the Aussies scored 299.19. Abel and Ware finished with 298.32.
Meanwhile, Canadian judoka Antoine Bouchard lost to Japan’s Masashi Ebinuma in the 66-kilogram bronze-medal match at the Rio Olympics.
The 21-year-old Bouchard had to beat Mongolia’s Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj in a repechage to advance to the third-place bout after losing his quarter-final to Slovenia’s Adrian Gomboc earlier in the day. Bouchard took the repechage over Davaadorj by waza-ari.
The Jonquiere, Que., native started his day with three straight wins, including a stunning victory in the round of 32 over Russia’s Mikhail Puliaev, a silver medallist at the 2014 and 2015 world championships.
Canada continued to do well in tennis. Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil and Toronto’s Daniel Nestor beat New Zealand’s Michael Venus and Marcus Daniell 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) in their first round men’s doubles matchup. The victory came just hours after fellow Canadians Eugenie Bouchard and Gabriela Dabrowski defeated the Polish duo of Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Paula Kania 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in their first-round women’s doubles match.
And other Canadian athletes didn’t get to compete at all. High winds continued to plague the Olympic rowing competition as racing was called off for the day due to turbulent water.
Race officials initially pushed back the start of Sunday’s program at Lagoa Stadium but were eventually forced to postpone competition for the day. Canada was to have four boats competing in heats and repechage rounds: the men’s lightweight four, women’s pair, women’s lightweight double sculls and men’s four.
The Canadian Press
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