SANTIAGO, Chile—Four Canadian triathletes making their Pan American Games debut joined forces to capture the nation’s second-straight medal in the mixed team relay at the multi-sport event, battling to bronze on Saturday near Santiago, Chile.
Brock Hoel (West Kelowna, B.C.), Emy Legault (L’Île Perrot, Que.) along with Ontario-based athletes – Liam Donnelly (Campbellville, Ont.) and Dominika Jamnicky (Guelph, Ont.) – swam, pedaled and ran their hearts out to the podium, completing their four combined legs in a time of 1:15:36.
“This is just an amazing experience to come home from a major Games with a medal. We are incredibly happy,” said Jamnicky, the 30-year-old veteran of the team who was fifth in Thursday’s individual women’s race. “To be out here with your teammates representing the maple leaf and delivering is a dream come true. We all fed off each other’s energy. Brock set the tone and after that I was like we can do this. We belong here and we were able to prove that.”
The Canucks were forced to deal with some early-morning adversity with their ace, Martin Sobey, not able to race after suffering from a stomach bug. Canada’s team leaders called an early morning meeting to develop a new game plan, and Donnelly was given the nod to take his roommates spot.
“My heart is with Martin. He is my roommate and my best friend. When I got the early call that I was racing, I had a mix of all kinds of feelings,” said Donnelly. “I just tried to suppress the nerves and leverage the excitement. I just gave it everything I had once I was out there.”
A huge responsibility to set the Canucks up for success with a strong start shifted to a 22-year-old developing athlete in Brock Hoel.
“I found out this morning I was doing the first leg. It is super exciting to start first. It is a crucial position in the relay and that’s why I felt a little extra pressure this morning,” said Hoel.
“You can’t win it on the first leg, but you can definitely lose it. It is kind of an individual race to set up the next teammate in the best position.”
Hoel came up clutch.
He charged out of the ice cold Pacific Ocean onto El Sol beach where he ran into the transition area in third spot. Hoel managed to get on the break with Team USA after hopping onto the bike where they opened a sizeable gap on the field.
“I knew it was going to be about getting on that first breakaway today so I just swam as hard as I could. I found something a little extra in the last 400 metres of my run, and tried to bring it home for the team because we were here for a medal,” added Hoel.
Tagging off to Legault a stride ahead of the Americans in first spot, the 27-year-old Quebecer and sixth-place finisher in the women’s race, delivered a solid second leg holding onto second place, 25 seconds down from the United States.
“Brock set us up perfectly, giving us a massive gap with the USA so I just tried to work with the American,” said Legault. “It was a little hard. I lost a little time, but I still managed to keep us in second place. We knew we were capable, but we also knew this was going to be a hard battle with the other teams.”
The focus shifted to Canada’s Donnelly, collecting himself in the exchange area before taking on the biggest 300 metre swim, 6 kilometre bike and 1.5-kilometre run of his life.
“Seeing Brock deliver made me even more nervous,” laughed the 24-year-old Donnelly. “To be the underdog is one thing but then to be at the front of the race, and you know you have something to lose, it is a whole new level of pressure, especially when you are racing for your teammates. I took a moment, a few deep breadths and just went full gas to the end.”
Donnelly answered the bell for his team with one of the strongest legs of his career.
With the Americans out front, Donnelly teamed up with the Brazilian on the short and technical bike loop. Racing well ahead of the field, he slapped hands with the veteran of the squad, Dominika Jamnicky, who was determined to realize the team’s podium goal while starting the anchor position in third spot.
“Waiting in the final position is like a pressure bomb waiting to go off. Lots of things happen between the first and last leg,” said Jamnicky. “The last leg is about bringing it home and making sure we nail that, so it was an honour to be in that position. I was ready for it and I’m happy I was able to deliver.”
Brazil jumped ahead of the Americans in the final swim and never looked back, taking the gold medal with a time of 1:15:08. Canada’s Jamnicky closed a sizeable gap on the Americans in the bike portion of her leg. Despite running into second transition together, the chiropractic graduate was not able to find the next gear to take over second place on the run. The United States secured the silver medal with a time of 1:15:26.
The action-packed triathlon mixed relay debuted at the 2019 Pan American Games where a young Canadian team took the silver medal. The spectator-friendly event also made its first appearance in the Olympic lineup at Tokyo 2020.
Canada has now earned 11 medals in triathlon at the Pan American Games since 1995. The last two individual podium finishes were by Olympian Brent McMahon, who won the silver medal at Rio 2007 and bronze at Guadalajara 2011. The only two gold medals won by Canadian triathletes at the Pan American Games were Sharon Donnelly (1999) and Jill Savage (2003).
Complete Results: https://results-santiago2023.org/#/schedule/daily/2023-11-02