Thunderbird field hockey players shine for Team Canada at the Pan American Games

The 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru are proving to be one for the books for Canadian athletes. As of Saturday night, Team Canada sits in fourth place on the medal table with 33 gold medals and a total of 146 medals. With swimming events finally getting underway, expect that number to only grow higher and higher.

For Thunderbirds representing Canada in Peru, there have already been some pretty memorable moments. For a start, there’s Jessica Sevick’s beating out some serious competition to take gold in the rowing single sculls. A crowning achievement so far in her incredible recovery after a luge accident.

But it's the women’s and men’s field hockey teams that have really taken the headlines over the last few days with each team beating rivals and high ranked opponents to make it to their respective finals, both against Argentina.

The women’s squad, featuring UBC alumni Rachel Donohoe, Steph Norlander, Shanlee Johnston, Sara McManus, Natalie Sourisseau, Kate Wright (Gillis) and Hannah Haughn, beat out rivals the United States in the semifinals with a 2-0 shutout.

They met a strong Argentinian team in the final and ultimately fell 5-1 with a lone goal coming from Kate Wright who also acted as captain for the game. While a silver medal is a big improvement for the squad, who finished with a bronze at the last Pan Ams in Toronto in 2015 that ended a 16-year podium drought, a win would have qualified Canada for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Still, the team’s performance in Peru are bound to help boost their rankings and aid in their upcoming Olympic qualifying campaign.

As for the Men’s side, current T-Birds Balraj Panesar and James Wallace joined alumni Scott Tupper, Taylor Curran, Oliver Scholfield, Keegan Pereira, David Carter and Gordon Johnston in a campaign that featured big wins over Mexico, the United States and a mammoth 14-1 victory over hosts Peru in the preliminary round before booking a date with Argentina themselves.

Captain and flag bearer Scott Tupper and Gordon Johnston scored at the Canadians dropped the game 5-2 to an Argentinian team celebrating their third Pan Ams triumph in a row. Amazingly, Canada and Argentina have met in the final of the men’s tournament in every edition of the Pan Ams since 1975, with Canada having taken the crown four times and the Argentinians a record 10 times.

Like the women’s tournament, Argentina have automatically qualified for the Olympics by winning the tournament, leaving the Canadians to go through the Olympic qualification process in the coming months in the lead up to Tokyo 2020.