July 26 – Eleanor Harvey and Nicole Ross starred each other down. They sized each other up. Then Harvey struck, and Canada was golden.
The Canadian women’s foil team of Alanna Goldie, Kelleigh Ryan and Eleanor Harvey, led by coaches Paul ApSimon and Alexey Kuznetsov, won Canada’s first fencing gold of the Games in thrilling fashion, taking the match 37-36 in overtime.
For the third time this week, Canada faced off against their southern rivals for gold. Eli Dershwitz took gold in men’s sabre on Monday, while him and his sabre teammates won gold against Canada on Thursday as well. The Americans were looking for a hat-trick of Canadian conquests.
They wouldn’t get it on this night.
“I just went blank. I just lost it. I was down!” said a jubilant Harvey after the golden moment.
“I definitely believe that Eleanor could do it,” said Goldie, who takes home her second medal of the week, “As soon as I started seeing her go forward, I said to myself ‘she’s going to hit’, and as soon as it landed…oh my god!”
“Alanna and I knew, we said to each other that if she attacks, she can hit, and she did. And we’re so proud of her,” said Ryan.
The women’s side got off to a strong start early in the morning with a convincing 45-24 win over Argentina, a bout that they led from the start. Bout after bout they chipped away at the Argentines, building up a huge lead that propelled them into the semi-finals against Mexico.
Their dominance carried over to the match against Mexico, whom they beat handily by as core of 43-24. The Canadians put the match well out reach during the seventh and eighth bouts, when Goldie and Harvey combined on a 14-0 run to widen the lead to 40-17, setting the stage for Ryan to finish off the bout.
When the dust settled, a familiar foe loomed in the final: the United States.
The win marks the first time the Canadian trio has beaten their American rivals, and is also the first gold medal in foil in Canadian Pan Am history.
Goldie won her first bout while Harvey tied in hers to give Canada a 9-6 lead, but Lee Keifer was able to bring the States back into it with a win against Ryan in the third bout. Goldie and Ryan then won the next two bouts, making it 18-11 for the Canadian side, all the while the crowd growing louder and louder with each Canadian point.
Keifer went on another big run in her second bout, against Harvey, putting up ten points, but Harvey was able to match with five points and hold the lead. Ryan came on in her final bout and got the lead to 27-22 – and that’s when things got interesting.
Kiefer, who is one of the top ranked foil fencers in the world, showed why she’s one of the best by beating Goldie 11-7 in the eighth bout and bringing the Americans to within one point.
“I think we kind of expected it to be (a bit of a rollercoaster),” said Goldie, “Lee Keifer is a very, very strong fencer. She’s amazing. We we’re ready for that, and for that bout (when she came back), so when it started to happen we kind of knew it was going to be there, and that’s probably what helped us the most. We expected it, so we weren’t shocked. We just said to ourselves ‘it’s OK, we’ll be fine’, it’s Lee, she’s great – but we’ll beat her.”
“We’re a really good team, too,” said Ryan, “I think we all trust each other and we know that even though we lost a couple of points here, we’re still in this match.
“We’ve worked so hard together, with our fourth teammate Shannon (Comerford) who’s unfortunately not here tonight…we’ve done this so many times, we’ve gone through it so many times together that we believe in each other and just keep on fighting together.”
Harvey and Ross went back and forth in the final bout, and let the time run out with 37 points on both sides of the word. The Americans held priority in the final bout, but that didn’t faze Harvey – in fact, nothing about the moment seemed to bother her at all.
“I wasn’t nervous going into the last point. I had nothing. I had no emotion. I was just like, ‘one more. One more.’”
The crowds throughout the week at the Pan Am Field House set the bar extremely high, but the crowd that took in the foil team’s gold medal conquest took it to another level – and the team fed off their energy.
“I definitely think it helped us,” said Goldie. “It made the Americans a little shaky, knowing that everyone was on our side. They weren’t used to that, a situation like this, and we were ready. We were more prepared and the crowd was motivating us. It was a big factor. We we’re all showing off a little and having a little fun with it, so it helped us relax in the end.”
On the men’s side, Canada drew Venezuala, who proved to be as tough an opposition as the Canadians could have gotten. The match remained tight up until the eighth bout, when the Venezuelans were able to pull away and build a 40-30 bout.
The match seemed all but lost, but Max Van Haaster nearly did the unthinkable, racking up hit after hit to chip away at the Venezuelan lead. Van Haaster, who scored 12 touches in the final bout, managed to narrow the deficit to two points, but Antonio Leal was able to put the final touch on Van Haaster to give Venezuala the win and ruin the comeback bid.
The Canadian men matched up against the Puerto Ricans in their first placement match, beating them by a score of 45-21. The Canadians won all nine of their bouts, bouncing back nicely from the quarter-final loss.
They then clinched 5th place with a 45-22 win over Colombia, where they won 8 of their 9 bouts, dropping only the first one by a score of 5-4.
Today marked the final day of the fencing portion of the 2015 Pan Am Games. Canada finishes the week with one gold, two silvers and three bronze medals.
Women’s Foil Team – Alanna Goldie, Kelleigh Ryan, Eleanor Harvey
Men’s Sabre – Joseph Polossifakis
Men’s Sabre Team – Joseph Polossifakis, Shaul Gordon, Mark Peros
Women’s Sabre – Gabriella Page
Men’s Epee – Hugues Boisvert-Simard
Women’s Foil – Alanna Goldie