The Canadian swimming team didn’t waste any time making its presence felt in the pool at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday night with a five-medal performance.
Two of those medals came in the first final of the night in the women’s 400-m freestyle. Delfina Pignatiello of Argentina led most of the race to win the gold in 4:10.86.
Danica Ludlow of Calgary climbed from third spot in the last 100-metres to take the silver in 4:11.97 and Alyson Ackman of Pointe-Claire, Que., also gained a spot in the last 50 for the bronze in 4:12.05.
Ludlow, 22, felt it was important to get Canada on the right track from the start.
“I wanted to get the ball rolling for Canada by starting out with a bang,” said Ludlow. “We put pressure on ourselves especially after the girls did so well at worlds so we’re just trying to keep the momentum going.”
Ackman, 26, retired in 2016 but decided to make a comeback this year.
“I couldn’t really see anyone in the field except the girl next to me,” she said. “I saw Danica and the Brazilian take it out and I was getting a little worried. I had a rough beginning to the race but was really happy with how I brought it back.”
It was special for both Canadians to be on the podium together.
“I’d been picturing it all day,” said Ackman, a gold and bronze medallist in relays at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. “I was so excited. I kind of wished one of us was in the middle but we hope to come back and do as well on the relays.”
Mary-Sophie Harvey of Trois-Rivieres, Que., roared from fifth spot at the last turn to grab the silver in the women’s 200-m butterfly in a personal best 2:11.68. Virginia Bardach of Argentina took the gold in 2:10.87 and Meghan Small of the U.S. was third in 2:12.51.
“It’s so good to get that silver on a great night for Canada,” said Harvey, who decided to add the 200 fly to her repertoire this season. “It’s such a good energy to see everyone doing so well. It pushes us to be better.”
Danielle Hanus of Newmarket, Ont., was seventh in 2:13.95.
Faith Knelson of the High Performance Centre-Victoria was less than half second from top spot in the women’s 100-m breaststroke won by Anne Lazor of the U.S. in 1:06.94. Julia Sebastian of Argentina took the silver in 1:07.09 and Knelson, first at the turn, clocked 1:07.42 for bronze.
“Seeing Alyson and Danica get on the podium while I was in the waiting room just made me get after it in the first 50,” said Knelson, 17, a quadruple medallist at the world junior championships in 2017. “I laid it all out there and that was the plan. I knew if I had a great front end I could get on the podium.”
Ackman led off Canada’s 4X100-m freestyle relay which took a bronze in 3:41.01. The U.S. won the gold in 3:39.59 and Brazil was second in 3:40.39. Following Ackman were Kyla Leibel of Red Deer, Alta., Katerine Savard of Quebec City and Alexia Zevnik of Ottawa.
“It was tough coming back from the 400 but the girls pumped me up,” said Ackman, “Just getting behind the blocks with the relay again representing Canada felt amazing and it was a great way to wrap up the first day.”
In B Finals, James Dergousoff of Christina Lake, B.C. was second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.00 for 10th overall.
“It was great to see our swimmers show their toughness,” said Canadian swimming team leader Iain McDonald. “They were in some tight races and they really fought hard coming back from outside podium positions to get their hands on a medal.”
Swimming competition continues through to Saturday.