Weightlifter Maude Charron leads the way as Canadian women win four more medals

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Canadian women continued their winning ways at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday as Maude Charron's weightlifting gold capped off a four-medal day for Canada's athletes.

Charron, from Rimouski, Que., finished first in the women's 64-kilogram competition after a successful lift of 131 kilograms on her third and final clean and jerk attempt.

Charron also had the highest score in the snatch phase, lifting 105 kilograms. Her total of 236 points over the two phases was four better than silver medallist Giorgia Bordignon of Italy. Wen-Huei Chen of Taiwan finished third.

The 28-year-old lifted her hands in triumph as she climbed the podium and appeared to wipe away tears as the Canadian anthem played.

"Actually I don't remember," Charron said with a laugh when asked about the anthem. "I was just crying, and I didn't realize what happened.

"I thought about my grandmother because once she told me she'd like me to sing the Canadian anthem, so I sang it - but on the podium at the Olympics."

Charron's gold is Canada's second of the games after swimmer Maggie Mac Neil won the women's 100-metre butterfly on Monday.

Currently, all eight of Canada's medals at the Tokyo Olympics have been won by women. Women athletes also led Canada's medal charge four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, accounting for 16 of Canada's 22 medals.

Swimmer Kylie Masse kicked off the country's medal run on Tuesday as she added an Olympic silver medal in the 100-metre backstroke to the country's growing pool tally. Her silver medal was followed up with bronze-medal victories from the softball team and by judoka Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard.

The softball team's 3-2 defeat over Mexico marked the country's first medal in the sport, which was dropped from the Games along with baseball in 2012 and 2016.

Montreal's Beauchemin-Pinard, meanwhile, earned Canada's second judo medal of the games after she defeated Anriqueli Barrios of Venezuela by waza-ari in extra time to win a bronze in the women's under-63-kilogram competition.

With two gold, three silver and three bronze after four full days of competition, Canadas moved up to eighth in the medal standings, behind Australia and ahead of France. Canada was ninth in total medals, with one less than Australia and one more than France.

Host Japan led the medal table for a second straight day with 10 gold, one more than the United States and China. The U.S. led all countries with 25 total medals, overtaking China, which had 21 after Tuesday's competition.

It was Charron who provided Tuesday's golden moment. The weightlifter, who had once gone to circus school and dreamed of being a gymnast, said going into the Games that her goal was to give her best performance.

However, she had already established herself as a medal contender earlier this year when she won gold at the Pan American Championships in April, breaking three records on her way.

And her recent success came without having a gym to train at due to COVID-19.

"My gym in Quebec closed so I had to take my stuff -- my bar and my plates -- to my dad's garage," she said. "I trained there for a whole year along with my dog.

"It was fine, I just picture myself there in my peaceful place and it puts me in the right mood."

Canada's swim team — at least its women — appeared to be continuing the success they found in the pool at the last Games in 2016, despite a COVID-19 pandemic that upended training schedules and, at times, shut pools altogether.

When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all pools for weeks in the spring of 2020, Masse got into a harness and tethered herself to a fence so she could swim in place in her parents' backyard pool.

Masse was forced to relocate from her home pool at the University of Toronto, where she trains under coaches Linda Kiefer and Byron MacDonald, to Toronto's Pan Am Sports Centre last year to join a training group overseen by Ben Titley.

On Tuesday, the 25-year-old from LaSalle, Ont. led at the halfway turn with the fastest first length of her life but was caught by speeding Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown at the wall.

Despite the difficulties she faced in the past year, Masse wasn't making any excuses after her second-place finish.

"Everyone's faced challenges this year," she said. "Some more than others. I don't want to ever use that as an excuse. I did everything I possibly could."

McKeown's winning time was two hundredths of a second off her world record of 57.47 seconds. Masse's 57.72 was two hundredths back of her career-best in June's Olympic trials.

While she said it would have been "incredible" to win gold, she was happy to grab the silver.

"I went the second-fastest time that I've ever gone, and I have to be happy with that," said Masse, who tied for Olympic bronze with China's Fu Yuanhui in Rio in 2016. "I'm proud of that in an Olympic final."

Canada's softball medal came 13 years after the program's agonizing fourth-place showing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Canadians bounced back after a disappointing 1-0 extra-inning loss to Japan on Sunday that dashed their hopes for gold.

Four veterans from that team arrived at these Games looking for redemption — Jenn Salling, Danielle Lawrie, Lauren Regula and Kaleigh Rafter.

"It means everything," said the 34-year-old Salling, who also announced she will retire. "This is the best team and one of the best cultures I've ever been a part of. Personally, this is the best gift I could have ever received."

Canadian chef de mission Marnie McBean, on the 25th anniversary of her own rowing triple gold, made up the country's cheering section, sitting directly behind home plate with two flags and a drum.

It was also a day of redemption for Beauchemin-Pinard, whose success came after she missed the podium in her first Olympic appearance in 2016.

She said after her victory that the defeat in Rio had made her even more determined to succeed in Tokyo.

"I knew I was capable of getting a medal today," she said after her win.

Beauchemin-Pinard won her first three matches by ippon before losing in the semifinals by waza-ari to five-time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, who went on to win gold.

In her bronze-medal match, Beauchemin-Pinard remained focused. She forced Barrios on her back just three minutes into the sudden-death period, before pumping her fist and yelling in triumph from the mat after the winning attack.

Also on Tuesday, Toronto's Penny Oleksiak and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla., qualified for the 200-metre freestyle and 200-metre individual medley finals, respectively.

Toronto's Summer McIntosh, the youngest athlete on Canada's Olympic team at 14, placed ninth in the 200-metre freestyle semifinal to finish just outside the top eight advancing.

Divers Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay just missed the podium in the 10-metre synchronized event, finishing fourth.

Canada's women's soccer team finished its preliminary play with a 1-1 draw with Britain. Canada will next face Brazil in the quarterfinals on Friday.

And Catharine Pendrel finished with an 18th place finish in the women's mountain bike in her fourth and final Olympics.

The 40-year-old — and new mom — from Fredericton, N.B., finished eight minutes and one second behind gold medallist Jolanda Neff of Switzerland.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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