SANTIAGO, Chile—Martin Sobey put the maple leaf on his back and his heart on his sleeve while running to a courageous fourth-place triathlon finish and leading a trio of Canadians into the top-six at the Pan Am Games on Thursday.
Sobey, the pride of Charlottetown, P.E.I., along with Dominika Jamnicky (Guelph, Ont.) and Emy Legault (L’Île Perrot, Q.C.) were all scrapping for medals on Chile’s port town of Vina Del Mar. Jamnicky and Legault placed fifth and sixth respectively in the women’s Olympic distance race.
The 27-year-old Sobey was rock solid throughout the triple-sport men’s test in a time of 1:46:31.
“I knew from the start of the swim they were going to try to get a group away. I just saw them gap me around the first buoy and from there it was a fight to get back into the race,” said Sobey who came out of the frigid Pacific Ocean after the 1,500-metre swim on the shoulder of his teammate, Brock Hoel (West Kelwona, B.C.), in the top-10.
With three athletes 20 seconds off the front out of first transition, the Canadian duo worked together on the pedals in a group of 12 to form one 15-man train heading onto the third of six laps on a flat, yet technical bike course.
“It was two hard laps of chasing on the bike until we connected with the front, and from there it was a tactical fight all the way until the end of the run,” said Sobey. “I tried to fake it. I was hurting for a lot of the run. I felt pretty tired, but I knew if I kept fighting and put myself out there, that at the end of the race anything is possible.”
He sure did.
The soft-spoken Canuck tried tested the pain tolerance on the 38-man field, darting into podium position on the second lap of the 10-kilometre battle on foot for the podium. Sobey ran with a group of six until the final rip past the stadium before the bell lap where a trio broke away, leaving him in a two-man battle for fourth.
“Unfortunately, the guys got up the road, but I had a hell of a fight for fourth and I’m proud of that sprint finish. I’m always good with 50 (metres) to go,” added Sobey. “I got a taste of the front, and I’m pretty proud of fourth. That’s everything I had today, and it feels pretty cool to have been leading that race for a bit.”
Recognizing the podium was out of reach, there was no quit in the scrapper from Canada’s smallest province.
“I always look at every race opportunity as a privilege to be out here and battle against these guys. Anyone would die to be there,” said Sobey. “I’m just thankful to be out here. That means every time I do it, we are going to give it everything – no matter the result, I can go home and be proud of myself and that’s exactly what I did.”
Brazil’s Miguel Lopes Hidalgo pulled away down carpet, winning with a time of 1:46:08. Matthew McElroy, of the United States, snagged the silver medal at 1:46:09. Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales Valencia hung on for the bronze medal at 1:46:11.
Canada’s Hoel dropped off the leading pace early in the run but finished solid in 12th at 1:47:49. Liam Donnelly (Campbellville, Ont.) fought until the end for 19th spot at 1:50:01.
Canadian Women Place Two in Top-Six
Two more of Canada’s first-time Pan Am Games athletes, Dominika Jamnicky and Emy Legault, delivered a one-two punch in the women’s Olympic distance race.
Like a cat with nine lives Jamnicky showed no quit while covering the 1.5-kilometre swim, 40-kilometre bike and 10-kilometre run along the El Sol beach in a fifth-place time of 1:58:33.
“I’m over the moon to finish fifth here. I really thought I was out of the race coming out of the water but that saying, ‘it’s never over until it’s over’ really played true today,” said Jamnicky, who will turn 31 in two weeks. “I just kept fighting and trusting in myself and my ability, and I made my way back up the field. It was the same for the run. I really couldn’t have asked for a better result today. It was an honour to wear the maple leaf.”
Coming out of the water well back in the pack of 33 athletes, Jamnicky put the hammer down on the bike to close a gap of more than two minutes, 30 seconds.
“This is a Domi style course. It is honest and you cannot hide out here. I just wanted to keep pushing and keep honest with myself and I think that paid off,” said Jamnicky.
It sure did.
With her 27-year-old teammate, Emy Legault, coming out of the water in third place and settling into a group of 13 riders with Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes controlling the early pace, Jamnicky bridged a small second chase group to form a pack of 16.
The group stayed intact until the pancake flat run course where it quickly strung out and the top sprinters reeled in Lopes.
Canada’s Legault made an early charge out of transition to the front before the pace picked up a gear on the second lap.
“I tried to give it a go and run for the medals, but after a lap I realized it was just too fast for me so I tried to hold on as much as I could,” said Legault, who clocked a time of 1:58:53. “When Domi joined me, we ran the middle 5K together which was good – we pushed each other. On that last lap, I exploded a little bit. Sixth place, at my first Pan Am Games, I’m happy!”
After appearing she emptied the tank on the pedals, Jamnicky found more jam midway through the run, steadily picking her way up the field.
“I’m not really a go out hard kind of gal when it comes to the 10km run so I just trusted in going in my own process and pace,” added Jamnicky. “Having that gel with 5km to go was just the boost I needed to get me across the line in fifth.”
Mexico’s Lizeth Rueda Santos was crowned women’s Pan Am Games champ after breaking the fiish tape in a time of 1:57:07. Colombia’s Maria Velasquez Soto ran solo down the blue carpet in the silver medal position, finishing at 1:57:07. Mexico’s Rosa Tapia Viadal locked up the bronze at 1:57:52.
Desirae Ridenour, of Cowichan Bay, B.C., pulled out of the race on the second lap of the bike course.
Jamnicky’s fifth-place fight capped off a breakthrough season for the veteran of the new-look Canadian squad who rattled off a pair of podium finishes on the America’s Triathlon Cup circuit and a top-20 finish at the World Triathlon Championship Series.
“I have had a phenomenal year. I couldn’t be happier with the results that I have put out. Graduating from chiropractic school was a four-year triumph and celebration, and now I just look forward to focusing on Paris next year and not only qualifying Canada a berth, but also a spot for myself. This is just the beginning,” said Jamnicky.
The Canadians will field a four-person team for the action-packed mixed relay event slated for November 4.
Canada has earned 10 medals in triathlon at the Pan American Games since 1995. A young group of Canadians made history at Lima 2019, winning the silver medal in the debut of the mixed team relay. 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