LIMA (Reuters) - Canada enjoyed the kind of gold medal afternoon at the Pan Am Games on Friday that the nation might normally expect to see from athletes wielding hockey sticks and slapping pucks, not rackets and shuttlecocks.
With four badminton golds and three silvers won, the Canadian national anthem was played so frequently over a stretch of a couple of hours at the Polideportivo 3 arena that even the Peruvians were humming along by the end.
Canada knew it was going to be a good day on the badminton courts even before play began with seven athletes contesting five finals, including all-Canadian matchups in the women’s singles and mixed doubles finals.
Only 18-year-old Brian Yang failed to grab gold, falling 21-19 21-10 to Brazil’s Ygor Coelho in the men’s singles, but every other final ended with a Canadian winner.
Michelle Li, the top ranked Canadian in any event at number 12, took the women’s singles crown for the third straight Games by stopping team mate Rachel Honderich 21-11 21-19.
Honderich, however, would still have her golden moment when she teamed up with Kristen Tsai to win the women’s doubles.
There was also gold for Jason Ho-Shue and Nyl Yakura in men’s doubles and the mixed doubles pairing of Joshua Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu.
It was the kind of haul that lifted Canada from middle regions of the medal table all the way up into second place behind runaway leaders the United States.
“We’re excited about what’s happening here and we have bigger goals as well with the Olympics and getting athletes qualified for that and see how well we can do there next year,” Canada head coach Mike Butler told Reuters.
“We’ve made some really good inroads, we have had some really good team results which shows the depth of our programme.
“It shows we are headed in the right direction.”
While a day like Friday produced a lot of big smiles, high fives and momentum, it is a scene highly unlikely be repeated next year at the Olympics, where Asian shuttlers dominate.
Canada is the big fish in a small Pan American pond. Only one country from the region will qualify in each event for Tokyo and the results in Lima have Canadian officials convinced those spots are theirs.
Only two Canada shuttlers qualified for the Rio Olympics but a bullish Butler expects at least five, and perhaps as many as eight, to earn berths for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
“Bottom line seven or eight is what we are looking for and I don’t think it is a stretch,” said Butler.
“We had two last time, a men’s singles and a women’s singles so we are looking that we are headed in the right direction.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney