Charles Paquet added another promising sign on the road to the next two Olympic Games for Canada’s young triathletes following a solid sixth-place finish in his first Pan American Games start on Saturday in Lima, Peru.
The 22-year-old put together his best race of the season on a punishing course that was laid out in the Chorrillos district of Peru’s coastal city where he finished with a time of 1:51:25.
“It was so hard. I’m really happy with the result,” said Paquet following his first Olympic distance race of the year. “It feels so good to be here and representing Canada. I just tried to keep up with the top guys all day.”
He mastered the task.
The 2016 World Junior silver medallist from Port Cartier, Que. battled through the two-foot surf where he came out of the 1.5-kilometre beach start swim in third place. Following a slick first transition, Paquet led the field of 32 athletes onto the first of six grueling laps on the 40-kilometre ride which featured a long, steep climb that towered over the transition area on the coast.
“The race didn’t turn in my favour. The bike was really slow, but I was so happy with the run,” said Paquet, who was groomed by Triathlon Quebec under coach Pierre Yves Gigou.
A pack of 25 riders formed early in the bike and stuck together until the second transition where a foot race determined the podium.
Paquet, a ninth-place finisher at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, was part of the medal story throughout the 10-kilometre dash. The talented Canuck was in a group of 12 which quickly dwindled to six in the second of four rips around the 2.5-kilometre loop. Running comfortably, Paquet took the lead into final lap but ran out of gas with just over one kilometre remaining and dropped to sixth.
“That last lap hurt so much, but I am so happy with that run,” said Paquet. “I am coming off a back injury this winter so my run isn’t where I want to be. I was a bit scared to do a 10 kilometre run. To come back from injury and to have a run like that, I’m really happy.”
Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales broke away from the field in the final lap and never looked back, surging to a gold-medal time of 1:50:39. Manoel Messias, of Brazil, finished 16 seconds back in the silver-medal position at 1:50:55. Argentina’s Luciano Taccone was third at 1:51:03.
Hamilton’s Taylor Forbes was the only other Canadian in the men’s field. The Triathlon Ontario product, who is coached by Craig Taylor, put together a strong run to battle back to 19th spot with a time of 1:56:16. Forbes was fighting from behind the whole way after just missing the back of the lead group out of the water. After biking in a group of five, Forbes went solo for the duration of the run.
Earlier in the day, Canada’s Karol-Ann Roy dug deep for a 13th-place finish in the women’s individual Olympic distance race.
The 26-year-old from Laval, Que., battled through the demanding course where she clocked a time of 2:06.20.
“This was a very difficult course. The water was cold and that hill on the bike was very difficult,” said Roy. “I would have liked to have stayed with the main group (throughout the race), but overall I’m satisfied.”
The reigning women’s Canadian Triathlon Champion came out of the water following the two-lap, 1.5-kilometre wetsuit swim in the high surf with a pack of about 10 athletes that trailed a trio of Brazilian athletes who led out onto the bike, and separated the field.
“I had a pretty good swim. I was worried about the waves, but the swim went well and I was in the main group so I was happy with that,” said Roy, who was competing in just her second Olympic distance race of the year. “We got onto the bike and I got dropped on that first hill so I waited for the chase pack. The climb was long and hard. We had to do it six times, but we were chasing hard the whole way.”
Heading into transition two in 14th spot after six loops on the bike, Roy darted out onto the 10-kilometre run course, but was only able to make up one spot in the standings when the dust finally settled at the finish line.
“I did the whole run by myself. The girls in my bike group were fast runners so I knew I couldn’t run with them,” added the Quebecer, who is also coached by Craig Taylor.
Brazil grabbed the top-two spots on the women’s podium. Lusia Baptista cranked up the heat on a chilly day in Peru during the run where she claimed the gold medal with a time of 2:00:55. Carrying a sizeable lead on the field throughout the swim and the bike, Vittoria Lopes was forced to settle for the silver behind her teammate, finishing with a time of 2:01:27.
Mexico’s Cecillia Perez claimed the bronze medal with a time of 2:02:07.
Action continues at the triathlon venue on Monday with the mixed relay race taking place at 9 a.m. (local time).
Lima 2019, which will run from July 26 to August 11, brings together approximately 6,700 athletes from 41 nations of the Americas and features 62 disciplines in 39 sports. It is the largest sporting event ever held in Peru, and third-largest international multi-sporting event.