Canadians to watch at next Olympics revealed themselves at Commonwealth Games
Next-gen stars like Ruck, LePage gained valuable experience in Gold Coast
As Canadian athletes marched through Carrara Stadium on Australia's Gold Coast during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, they were no doubt reflecting on their experience here, as well as what they learned about what they're capable of.
They're not the only ones taking stock of their accomplishments — all of Canada should now know who to watch as the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo draw closer.
Established stars such as wrestler (and closing ceremony flag-bearer) Erica Wiebe of Stittsville, Ont., and swimmer Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., got to see where they stand at the midway point between Olympics, but the Gold Coast Games were also about who's next.
- Erica Wiebe goes around the world and back to defend her Commonwealth gold
- Kylie Masse wins gold, sets new Commonwealth backstroke record
Canadian chef de mission Claire Carver-Dias says the 2018 Team Canada was built for the future.
"We had our best team that we've ever fielded for a Games and a very young team in many sports," she says. "The pool is deep."
The Gold Coast Games were a coming-out party for teenage swimming phenom Taylor Ruck and announced the arrival of decathlete Pierce LePage.
Ruck, 17, took home eight medals to become the most decorated Canadian female athlete ever at a single Commonwealth Games. That mark had stood for 52 years, since fellow swimmer Elaine Tanner won seven in 1966.
That haul for the Kelowna, B.C.-born athlete included a gold medal in the women's 200m freestyle, where she also recorded a new Games record.
She also got to meet Prince Charles, who presented her with that gold medal.
Guess Prince Charles was here to hand out some gold to Taylor Ruck <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GC2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GC2018</a> <a href="https://t.co/7hS0tVagXg">pic.twitter.com/7hS0tVagXg</a>—@jpiercyCBC
LePage, 22, won silver in the decathlon, while defending champion and Canadian teammate Damian Warner faltered.
"I've never been in a stadium or a Games like that where there are so many people cheering for you and rooting for you," LePage said after his medal win. "It's a surreal experience, winning your first international medal on a big stage. It's something you'll always remember."
The Whitby, Ont. native says he's bringing home more than a medal from these Games.
"For me, the Commonwealth Games were a stepping stone for worlds next year, and worlds are a stepping stone for the Olympics."
Carver-Dias says the Commonwealth Games' role as a learning experience for the country's aspiring Olympians is key to its importance.
"I tend to think the Commonwealth Games are, sadly, undervalued and chronically underfunded considering their important role in athlete preparation for the Olympic Games," she says. "You have to look at the Olympic Games as the pinnacle of athletic achievement, and many the athletes that are going for gold and going for the podium use these Games to measure and help them prepare for the Olympics."
Canadian women shine at Games
These Games — the first major multi-sport event to feature gender medal event equality — provided not only a platform for Canada's young, developing stars of tomorrow, it also showcased the strength of Canadian women athletes.
Canada captured 15 gold medals here on the Gold Coast, and all but one of those were won by women:
- Ellie Black, artistic gymnastics (all-around)
- Shallon Olsen, artistic gymnastics (vault)
- Women's artistic gymnastics team
- Christabel Nettey, long jump
- Alysha Newman, pole vault
- Sarah Pavan/Melissa Humana-Paredes, beach volleyball
- Sophie Crane, rhythmic gymnastics (clubs)
- Kylie Masse (2), swimming (100m, 200m backstroke)
- Taylor Ruck, swimming (200m freestyle)
- Maude Charron, weightlifting (63kg)
- Erica Wiebe, wrestling (76kg)
- Diana Weicker, wrestling (53kg)
- Alexandre Dupont, para track (T54 1500m)
- Jennifer Abel, diving (3m springboard)
"We're very proud of our women, and our men, but it was nice to see the women come out and perform well at these Games," Carver-Dias says. "Our women really held their own here and that's a really proud moment for Canada."
Canadian athletes will go home with a total of 82 medals — the aforementioned 15 gold plus 40 silver and 27 bronze. While Canadian officials came into the Gold Coast with a stated goal of 100 medal wins from their athletes, their real aim was to use this event as a stepping stone towards Tokyo.
And as Wiebe, Masse, Ruck, LePage, and the rest of their Team Canada teammates illustrated, it seems like mission accomplished.
Final medal count: 82.<br><br>Canada finishes 3rd in overall medals behind Australia (198) and England (136) at the Commonwealth Games <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GC2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GC2018</a> <a href="https://t.co/DcVPEK1ceM">https://t.co/DcVPEK1ceM</a> <a href="https://t.co/Eb8SvysK0g">pic.twitter.com/Eb8SvysK0g</a>—@CBCOlympics