LIMA, Peru — The Lima Pan Am Games drew to a close Sunday with Canada slipping in the medal standings, but securing several valuable qualification spots for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Canada fell one spot to third in the overall race with 152 medals (35 gold, 64 silver, 53 bronze), down from 217 total medals four years ago.
Many athletes jumped at the chance to compete on home turf at the 2015 Games in Toronto and A-team rosters were common. Several federations sent B-teams or split A-B teams to Peru and the medal count was affected.
The United States once again led the way with 293 medals (120-88-85) and Brazil was next with 171 (55-45-71). Mexico was third in the gold standings with 37 (two more than Canada) but fourth overall with 136 medals (37-36-63).
“I’m really proud of the way the team has performed,” said Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith. “We certainly had lots of success here. Overall a really positive Games I would say.”
Ellie Black led the way for Canada by winning five medals for the second Pan Am Games in a row. She was named flag-bearer for Sunday night’s closing ceremony at Peru’s National Stadium. She waved the flag high with dozens of other country representatives, while her fellow Canadian athletes marched behind them.
“It means so much to have this opportunity to hold our Canadian flag high and proud,” Black said. “The Canadian athletes’ performances were inspiring and so exciting to follow while in Lima and back at home.
“I’m very proud of everything we were able to achieve and I am so excited to lead this amazing team as we march into the stadium.”
Canada secured Tokyo berths in a variety of sports and disciplines over the 19 days of competition. They included equestrian (dressage team, jumping team), artistic swimming (duet, team), women’s water polo, sailing (men’s 49er) and archery (men’s individual recurve).
In addition to a number of personal bests, new Pan Am Canadian medal highs were set in water-skiing (10), fencing (nine) and squash (eight).
The mid-summer timing of the Games clashed with national and world championships in several sports. Big Canadian names like Black and decathlete Damian Warner made the trip, but several high-profile athletes did not return.
For many competitors, the Pan Ams provided valuable experience in a multi-sport Games setting as they continue to build ahead of Tokyo next summer.
Black provided several highlight performances, winning two gold medals, two silver and one bronze at the Villa El Salvador Sports Center to become Canada’s most decorated Pan Am gymnast.
“Ellie is a super role model, a team leader and an inspiration for the next generation of gymnasts,” Smith said.
Black competed early in the Games before returning home to Halifax to continue training for the world championship this fall. Canadian chef de mission Douglas Vandor phoned Black to give her the news of her flag-bearer selection.
“For me, this is so exciting for Canadian sports and Canadian gymnastics,” Black said. ”To have great results and make history for my country, but most importantly inspiring others to dream big, go for your goals, and break down barriers. It’s special to share these results with my whole team.”
Black became Canada’s first all-around medallist at a world championship when she finished second at the 2017 event in Montreal. She won her sixth all-around national title earlier this year.
Field hockey player Scott Tupper served as Canadian flag-bearer at the opening ceremony.
Although there were a few organizational hiccups and some transportation issues, Lima deserves credit for pulling off the largest sporting event ever held in Peru.
“I just feel like we’ve been embraced by this city and by this country,” Smith said. “In spite of challenges that you normally get at Games, this has been a positive experience.”
The Parapan Am Games are set for Aug. 23-Sept. 1. The 2023 Pan Am Games will be held in Santiago, Chile.