Coach who led Lewis, Bujold to Olympics dies

AdrianAdrian Teodorescu passed away Wednesday after a battle with cancer. Toronto Star file photo. 

Greg Mercer, Record staff

KITCHENER — Adrian Teodorescu, the amateur boxing coach who led Kitchener’s Mandy Bujold and Lennox Lewis to the Olympics, has died from cancer.

Canada’s boxing community was staggered by news last week that the Romanian-born boxing coach was in a fight for his life with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. On Wednesday morning, his fight ended.

“Until his last breath, he was talking about boxing. I think that passion was contagious, and it inspired people,” said Bujold, who credits Teodorescu with helping her reach the Rio Olympics in August.

“He was able to bring out the best in his athletes. And he cared. Boxing was his life. Even on Friday, the last day he could talk, he was making strategies for all the boxers in his gym.”

Teodorescu, 73 had beaten lymphoma once before, in 2008. But he kept his health struggles private from even his closest boxers. Bujold knew he was sick, but only recently learned it was cancer.

She spent his final days by his bedside in a Toronto hospital. By then, his secret was out, and a parade of boxers who trained under him came to pay their respects.

“He didn’t want anyone to know,” Bujold said. “That’s just the way he was. He didn’t want to worry anyone. It was tough to watch him like that, but I always thought he was going to get better. I thought he was super human.”

Teodorescu taught hundreds of boxers, but his greatest feat was probably coaching Lewis to Olympic gold at the 1988 Seoul Games. He taught the British-born, Kitchener-raised fighter to play chess, and showed the boxer how strategy, not just fitness or power, could triumph in the ring.

While the pair parted ways when Lewis turned pro, Lewis reunited with Teodorescu late in his career — bringing him in as an adviser before he fought Evander Holyfield in 1999 for the unified heavyweight crown.

Teodorescu also coached Mark Leduc, who won light-welterweight silver at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and helped Egerton Marcus win middleweight silver the year Lewis won gold.

Bujold, meanwhile, says Teodorescu changed the way she looked at her sport.

“I’ve been all around the world, and I’ve never met a coach like Adrian. He looked at boxing differently. He was one-of-a-kind,” said Bujold, who has organized a fundraiser to support her coach’s funeral costs and keep his gym afloat, at fighttoendcancer.com/2016/fightforadrian.

He commanded the respect of those he trained, she said, and was beloved for his Romanian jokes that fell flat when translated into English.

Teodorescu, who owned and operated the Atlas Boxing Club in Toronto, will always be remembered for his “tremendous legacy to the boxing world,” according to officials at Boxing Canada, the sport’s governing body.

Lewis

 


Pavan and Bansley call it quits

PavanBansleyBeachOlympians Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley have ended their beach volleyball partnership. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Greg Mercer, Record staff

KITCHENER — Two weeks after they were eliminated from the Rio Olympics, Kitchener’s Sarah Pavan and Waterdown’s Heather Bansley have gone their separate ways.

Pavan and Bansley, Canada’s top-ranked beach volleyball duo who had played together since 2013, have split up on the heels of their disappointing end to their Olympic tournament.

After reaching the Olympic quarterfinals undefeated, the Canadians lost in two straight sets to Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst — who went on to win gold in Rio. Pavan and Bansley finished fifth overall.

A reason for the split wasn’t given. After the loss to the Germans, Pavan called it “one of the biggest disappointments of my athletic career.”

“As someone who has devoted my life to sport, and who has dreamed of this opportunity for the last 25 years, the hurt is real, and it’s big. There was so much more to be done, and it will take a while to recover from this one,” she said, in a post on her Facebook page.

The Kitchener-raised volleyball star and former national indoor player will use a new partner, Melissa Humana-Paredes, in the upcoming World Tour Finals event in Toronto. Bansley, meanwhile, will play with 24-year-old Brandie Wilkinson.

Pavan and Bansley had been awarded a wild card into the World Tour Finals event, which runs from September 13-18. That means the former teammates will now have to play against each other in a one-match playoff for that spot.

Volleyball Canada’s head beach coach Steve Anderson said such splits are common in the sport once the four-year Olympic cycle ends. But he added it’s not unheard of for athletes to team back up again after a split, as American Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor did leading into the London Games.

“It’s not unusual for teams to split up after four plus years of playing together, and it’s not uncommon that they later reunite,” he said.

“Heather and Sarah are professional and fierce competitors, and now that they will be on the opposite sides of the net I am looking forward to the passion and exciting plays when they play each other."


Parkhill's Olympic dream got serious in Guelph

ParkhillRioLee Parkhill sails past the buoy during a Laser men's training session at the 2016 Summer Olympics. AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO — Lee Parkhill’s road to the Rio Olympics probably started somewhere on all those red-eyed flights back to Canada while studying at the University of Guelph.

Parkhill, the Oakville native who made his Olympic debut at the 2016 Summer Games, was a student in Guelph a few years ago when his passion for competitive sailing started to trump all else.

While studying for his Bachelor of Commerce degree at Guelph, he quit partying and began spending all of his weekends sailing.

In the lead up to the London Games, which he had hoped to qualify for, the 27-year-old spent one winter flying back and forth between Florida and Toronto, trying to get as much time on the water as he could.

He’d study all week in Guelph, then hop a plane and be sailing by Friday, and come home on Sunday night in time for class.

“I slowed down the partying a lot, not that I was a big partier. I found myself leaving class and going to the gym rather than hanging out with friends,” he said.

“I made sure I got my studies done so I could go sailing on the weekend. I don’t regret a single party that I missed. Being here outweighs all that.”

Parkhill, whose highlight in Rio was a fourth-place finish in a preliminary round race in the men’s Laser category, started the Olympic regatta ranked 43rd but climbed 20 spots by the end of competition.

“I told myself to fight to the bitter end, and try to move up. I did that, and that’s something to be proud of,” he said. “That gives me some satisfaction, knowing I could be there with the best in the world.”

Parkhill has been around sailing his whole life. His father still sails recreationally and his brother was a competitive sailor. As a boy, his parents would take him out on Lake Ontario to watch his brother Brett race.

He began taking lessons at age eight, and made the Royal Canadian Yacht Club his training base.

“At some point, something clicked and I didn’t want to be in that boat watching anymore. I wanted to be out there racing,” he said. “But it wasn’t university that I saw the older guys going to the Olympics that I realized this was something that would be very cool.”

After failing to qualify for London, it’s been a slow and steady progression toward becoming an Olympian. Last summer, Parkhill won bronze medal at the Pan Am Games, then took fifth at the Rio 2016 test event. This June, he came fourth at the World Cup event in Weymouth and Portland.

Parkhill’s says his run in competitive sailing will probably wind down after the Olympics. He said he’d like to get into coaching, and find a career that will keep him closer to home for his four-month-old daughter Emma.

“I think it’s time I get a real job,” he said. “But there’s a part of me that will sail for a long time. But hopefully I have some knowledge I can pass down to the next generation.”

 


Gillis cracks top ten in Olympic marathon

GillisRioMarathonCanada's Eric Gillis finished tenth in the men's marathon at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. CP photo/Jason Ransom

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO – Guelph’s Eric Gillis ran the “race of my life” on the last day of the Rio Olympics, finishing tenth in the men’s marathon Sunday – the best performance by a Canadian in 40 years in the Games’ classic closing event.

Gillis, who finished in two hours, 12 minutes and 29 seconds on an overcast but humid day in Rio, was picking runners off but didn’t know he was so close to the front until the last leg of the race.

“I’m feeling good. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that in the race,” he said. “With a K or two left, I heard somebody say, ‘If you pass one guy, you’re in top ten.’ I was like, ‘Holy, where did that come from?’ It was a bit of a surprise.”

Gillis’ training partner on Guelph’s Speed River Track & Field Club, Reid Coolsaet, improved on his London 2012 performance by finishing 23rd in two hours, 14 minutes and 58 seconds.

Although injuries cut into his training time this season, he was disappointed with the result, finishing 6:14 behind the winner. After running the fastest marathon by a Canadian in four decades last season, Coolsaet had hoped to crack the top 15 or 20 in Rio.

“When I think about where I was in April or June, I’m happy. But when I look at how I was running last year, and I what I wanted to get out of it, it’s a disappointment,” he said.

“I’m glad my body came around in the last four or five weeks and I was able too run properly. But I was just kind of playing catch-up most of the time… I’m just a little short of my goal.”

Kenya’s Wesley Korir, who trains in St. Clements when he’s back in Canada with his Wilmot Township-raised wife Tarah Korir, lead the pack at the halfway mark, but did not finish. Fellow Kenyan Eluid Kipchoge won gold by running 2:08.44.

Gillis’ tenth place finish is the best for a Canadian in the event since Jerome Drayton came sixth at the 1976 Games in Montreal. In the four decades since, the closest a Canadian came to beating that was Dylan Wykes’ 20th-place finish in the 2012 Olympics marathon, with a time of 2:15:26.

He said his coach Dave Scott-Thomas put the notion in his head a long time ago that he could finish top ten at the Olympics. But he insists he wasn’t chasing that result when he lined up Sunday morning.

“It has sunk in yet. That was the big goal that’s so big you can’t think about it too often,” he said. “I was really in the mindset of just preparing as well as I can, and executing well.”

Gillis, 36 and a father of two, dodged questions about retiring by saying he’ll keep running this fall. But beyond that, it depends on how his body feels.

“That’s the best race of my life, by far. Top ten at the Olympics? Yeah, I’m pretty happy,” he said. “I’m not done this fall, but it’ll be soon. I felt good out there, and it’s the right time and place to keep it going.”

It was a wet, cloudy morning in Rio de Janeiro but temperatures had climbed toward 26C for the last leg of the race. Without the sun beating down, the lead pack picked up the pace early on, and both Canadians kept within a few seconds of the front runners until after the halfway point.

Coolsaet, 37, and Gillis took turns pushing a second group that chased the lead pack, but Gillis lost step when he tried to hydrate at a water station. He was in 47th spot at the halfway point when he began to make his move.

“It would have been nice if I could have been with them (the lead pack), but I just stuck to my game plan, which was to pick off guys in the second half,” Gillis said. “I wanted to risk a little bit more today than be conservative.”

Coolsaet, meanwhile, felt pushed along at times by a pace he says was a little outside his comfort zone, after losing valuable training time this season. He was 50th at the halfway point, and passed 27 runners on his way to the finish line.

“There were a few places where I felt the pace was a bit too fast for me, and I lost a little bit of ground. I’d relax a bit then I was able to pick it back up again and kind of get back in that pack,” he said. “I gave myself a shot, and I think I ran a smart race.”

Coolsaet knew Gillis was having a good race when he hit the last few kilometres leading into the finish line at Rio’s Sambodromo stadium, and had lost sight of his teammate.

“That was the first point where I was able to look ahead, and I couldn’t see him anymore. I knew he was having a good one,” he said. “To see him execute the way he wanted to, it was awesome.”

CoolsaetRioMarathonCanada's Reid Coolsaet finished 23rd in the men's marathon at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro Sunday. CP Photo/Jason Ransom


Final leaves Brannen hungry for more

BrannenFinalMatthew Centrowitz of the U.S. leads the men's 1500m final at Olympic Stadium in Rio. James Hill/The New York Times

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO — Nate Brannen had a message from Kevin Sullivan pop into his phone in the hours before he was to line up for the biggest race of his career.

Sullivan, the Brantford-raised three-time Olympian, had some advice for Brannen. As the last Canadian to make it to the 1500-metre final at the Summer Games, way back in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, he was in a unique position to offer it.

“He said, ‘Walk off the track satisfied. Don’t leave anything out there,’” he said.

Brannen did that Saturday night inside the Olympic Stadium, placing tenth in 3:51.45 and leaving the track with a smile. After 15 years of training, and four years after falling in the 2012 Olympic semifinal, he’d finally reached biggest stage of his sport.

“It’s awesome. I think I did (leave satisfied), but it also leaves me hungry for more,” said Brannen, who didn’t sleep much the night before his big race.

After representing Canada at three Summer Games, these will be Brannen’s last Olympics. But with the world championships looming next year, the 33-year-old from Cambridge isn’t quite ready to call it a career.

Not after this.

“It’s funny. You have these goals… but finishing tenth here makes me want to come back and finish top six, top seven at the world championships,” he said.

“I’m happy with it, but it leaves me wanting more. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next year, but now I’m definitely coming back.”

Brannen said he’s proud to end Canada’s 16-year absence from the 1,500m Olympic final, and to be mentioned in the same category as Sullivan — whose fifth-place finish in 2000 is the best by any Canadian.

“I means a lot to be kind of compared to Kevin Sullivan in the same sentence, one of the best 1500m runners ever,” he said.  

Saturday’s final was a slow, tactical race – the USA’s Matt Centrowitz won in 3:50.00, almost 20 seconds slower than his personal best — and Brannen found himself bogged down in a clump of runners as the race progressed.

“With a lap to go, I wasn’t in the position I would have liked to have been in, in that type of race. But I’m tenth at the Olympics. I’m not going to complain about that,” he said.

Sullivan now coaches at the University of Michigan, where Brannen was a decorated track athlete. Another former Wolverine teammate, New Zealand’s Nick Willis, won bronze in Saturday’s final.

Brannen qualified for the last spot in the final two days ago, after an anxious few minutes following his semifinal race spent wondering if he’d made it. His dream had finally come true. Then he had get down to business.   

“That was the tough thing, coming through here on a super low, and then realizing I made the final,” he said. “I needed to calm my nerves down, and get ready.”


Jarvis eighth overall in Olympic wrestling debut

JarvisRioGuelph's Korey Jarvis, right, grapples with Egypt's Diaaeldin Abdelmottaleb. AP Photo/Markus Schreiber 

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO – Guelph’s Korey Jarvis will leave the Rio Olympics knowing the podium was within reach. He’ll return home with his mind already geared toward getting back for another shot in 2020.

Jarvis, wrestling in the men’s 125-kilogram freestyle event, ended his Olympic tournament in a 3-1 loss to Georgia’s Geno Petriashvili – the top-ranked wrestler in the world at his weight, who would win bronze one match later.

He faced a well-rested Petriashvili just half an hour after he dominated Egypt’s Diaaeldin Abdelmottaleb in the repechage round, winning 3-0. The big Canadian started his day with a close 3-1 match against Iran’s Komeil Ghasemi, the man who would eventually win silver.

His performance left him No. 8 overall, not bad for the Elliot Lake, Ont.-raised welder making his Olympic debut. It convinced him he belongs with the best in his sport – and is just on the cusp of contending for a medal.

“I feel good about the day, even though I didn’t get the result I wanted,” said Jarvis, who trains with the Guelph Wrestling Club.

“I’d like to start planning my next four years on my way to Tokyo (host of the 2020 Olympics). It’s a good sight for me, seeing these guys… I’m there. Four years, I think I can be there.”

Jarvis, cheered on by Canadian fans wearing fake beards, said he was able to conquer his nerves and wrestle the way he wanted. He knew Petriashvili, who beat him handily at the world championships last year, was going to be a challenge.

“It’s nerve-wracking because I know he’s good. These guys are here to win. There’s no games here,” he said.

The Pan Am Games silver medalist was tired from his previous match when he battled Petriashvili, who scored three takedowns in the final round. Jarvis was beginning to frustrate the Georgian wrestler with when he ran out of time.

“I feel OK, because I didn’t hold back. A couple times before when I’ve wrestled, I was nervous and held back, and things were going on in my head. But today I focused everything on wrestling, and I felt like I followed the game plan,” he said.

Jarvis didn’t get a medal, but he did get a baby. After his final match, a woman handed him an infant and asked him to pose for a photo.

“One of the Brazilian ladies in the mixed zone thought I should hold her baby and get a selfie. I guess the beard is comforting,” he said. “It gets me a little bit, because I’ve got a daughter at home and I miss her a lot.”

Jarvis had a tough draw in the qualifying round, facing the experienced Ghasemi, who won bronze at the 2012 Olympics. Both men have similar wrestling styles, as hand-fighting specialists who try to tire their opponents out.

The Canadian started slowly, rallied for a strong second round, and was shifting the momentum as time ran out, losing 3-1. That sent him to the repechage round while Ghasemi would go on to win his next three fights to march his way into Saturday’s finals.

“At the whistle, I was on his legs, but I couldn’t finish,” Jarvis said, of the loss. “He made the finals, and it gave me a second wind.”

In his first repechage match, he dominated a younger, but bigger opponent in Abdelmottaleb. Jarvis went on the attack early, and overwhelmed the tall Egyptian with a series of holds Abdelmottaleb couldn’t break free from.

“My plan was the same thing as the first match,” he said, afterward. “Work the guy’s head, get on him, work angles, stuff is going to open up.”

The few times when he did get in trouble, he was able to use his hips and slip out of a hold.

“I wrestled awesome. I need to. That’s why I’m here,” he said, he said, after the win against Abdelmottaleb. “I was way more nervous for this match than that first one. This guy is not as good, it’s a winnable fight every day for me. So it puts a little bit more pressure on me.”


Canada claims soccer bronze over Brazil

SoccerBronzeCanada's players celebrate after beating Brazil 2-1 in their bronze medal match. AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO — Coach John Herdman said they had a job to do. In a packed Brazilian stadium filled with a hostile crowd, they kept their composure and did just that.

Canada’s soccer women beat Brazil 2-1 Friday afternoon to win a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. It’s the country’s second Olympic medal in women’s soccer, after claiming bronze in London four years ago.

From Pan Am Games champion a year ago to an Olympic medalist today, it’s been quite a ride for Canadian backfielder Shelina Zadorsky, who began playing the game with Kitchener Minor Soccer at around age five.

Zadorsky, a relative newcomer to the national team, played a vital role in the first goal scored 25 minutes into the game at Corinthians Arena. With Brazil pressing, she won the ball and fed it up the field to Ashley Lawrence, who made a beautiful pass to a sprinting Deanne Rose in front of the net.

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, the 33-year-old face of the women’s team playing in her 250th international game, fittingly fired home the winning goal early into the second half.

Brazil, which had failed to score in their past three matches, found the back of the net against Canada’s Stephanie Labbe with 11 minutes left, but it wasn’t enough.

With the crowd chanting “Brazil, Brazil” as the clock wound down, the Canadians hung on, and rushed the field after the final whistle.

“It has been four years of hard work, four years of dedication. We set a goal to achieve back-to-back podiums and we weren't going to settle for anything less than that. I am just super proud of this team,” Sinclair said, afterward.

Zadorsky, 23, was a key part of Canada’s strong defensive unit at these Games. Canada’s bronze medal takes some of the sting out of the 2-0 loss to Germany in the semifinals.

That loss, the women’s only defeat at the 2016 Olympics, ended their hopes of playing for the gold medal. Otherwise, they were flawless. They beat Germany, No. 5 Australia and No. 93 Zimbabwe in the preliminary round, and then topped No. 3 France in the quarterfinals.

They made history with that win over Germany in round-robin play — the first time a Canadian team, men’s or women’s, had topped the powerhouse Germans.

Brazil, which ended up in the bronze medal game after losing in a penalty shootout against Sweden, beat the Swedes, No. 12 China and tied No. 52 South Africa in pool play before finishing off Australia in the round of eight.

The bronze will certainly be a career highlight for Zadorsky, a former University of Michigan standout who now plays professionally for the Washington Spirit.

At age 14, she was already showing she was a special player. A star on the Kitchener Spirit, an elite team of the region’s best young players, she scored 24 times for the squad in 2006 — more goals than any other player in the entire Ontario Youth Soccer League.

That same year, she captained the Ontario provincial team that won gold at the nationals in Saskatoon, and was getting noticed well beyond Waterloo Region.

Zadorsky went on to play a lot of big games. But none bigger than this.


De Grasse leads Canadians on the track

DeGrasseCanada's Andre De Grasse celebrates silver in the men's 200m final at the 2016 Olympics. CP Photo/Sean Kilpatrick

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO – It was a race you couldn’t turn away from Thursday night inside Olympic Stadium. Even decathlete Damian Warner, fresh off his own bronze medal victory, had to pause his interviews and find the nearest TV.

Markham’s Andre De Grasse blazed his way to a silver medal in the 200m sprint, looking more and more like the heir apparent to Usain Bolt’s legacy on the track. Inside the mixed zone where Olympians meet the press after they compete, everyone, including fellow Canadian Warner, was rapt.

De Grasse, just 21 and already the owner of two silver medals in his Olympic debut, has been one of the biggest must-watch athletes in Rio. That he can talk, in complete seriousness, about being disappointed he didn’t beat Bolt shows how quickly he’s become a very big deal in the track world.

“I felt like I had a great shot,” said De Grasse, who ran 20.02, just behind Bolt’s 19.78.

“I’m not sure if I used up too much energy yesterday and didn’t have anything left today… coming home I just didn’t have the same push as I had.”

What a rise to the top it’s been for De Grasse, who was scolded the night before by Bolt for pushing too hard in their preliminary heat, while setting a new personal best. It came just two nights after he won bronze in the 100m dash.

“He told me, you’re to going to learn from that, you’re young. I guess I paid for it today,” he said. “I’m a little bit disappointed. I think I could have run a little bit faster.”

A few years ago, De Grasse never thought he’d be here, with two medals around his neck and challenging the fastest man in the world. He insists he’s not worried about expectations he’ll be the sprinter who fills the void after Bolt retires.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “I just need to continue to train hard and stay healthy. If that happens, I think I’ve got a good chance of contending for a gold medal in Tokyo.”

Warner, meanwhile, was happy for his teammate but disappointed to go home with bronze. He says he’ll try for the top of the podium again in four years, but he’s learning lofty goals don’t come easily.  

“I had pretty strong goals coming into these Olympics, and I wanted to challenge for that gold,” he said.

“Five years ago, I thought I had what it takes to break the Canadian record, and I didn’t learn that until last year. I thought what it takes to get a gold medal, but I didn’t learn that until now.”

With a season-best 8,666 points in Rio, Warner is the first Canadian to win a medal in the decathlon since Windsor’s Dave Steen won bronze at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

The London-raised and based athlete is a big part of one of the strongest Canadian track teams in years. De Grasse’s standout performances only fuels his teammates desire to push even harder in Rio, he said.  

“It’s an honour to be a part of this team. There’s so many athletes on this team I have so much respect for, and Andre is one of them,” he said. “It’s awesome to share these medals with them. And I’m sure there’s a couple more medals to be had on the track.”

On Friday night, De Grasse hoped to add to Canada’s medal haul – which already included a gold by high jumper Derek Druin from Corunna, Ont. – in the men’s 4x100m relay race.

On Saturday night, two more Canadian track athletes will try to add to that collection.

Windsor’s Melissa Bishop, who grew up in Eganville, Ont., will race in the women’s 800m final. Cambridge’s three-time Olympian Nate Brannen, meanwhile, will compete in his first Olympic 1,500m final.


Brannen gets his wish - an Olympic final

BrannenSemifinalCambridge's Nate Brannen, middle, battles for position in his 1500m semifinal. AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO — Nate Brannen couldn’t watch the race. When the results finally came, he clung to the medal railing in the belly of Rio’s Olympic Stadium and broke down.

Cambridge’s three-time Olympian had good reason to shed tears of joy. After 15 years of elite running, and one painfully low moment in London, he’s finally going to an Olympic 1,500-metre final.

Brannen beat Uganda’s Robert Usagala by just .17 seconds on Thursday night for the last spot in Saturday’s final in Rio de Janeiro.

He took the most anxious route possible to get there. Brannen, boxed in during the last lap of his semifinal, finished seventh in his race with 3:40.20 – just outside the cutoff to be guaranteed a spot.

With one of two fastest remaining times, he needed the second semifinal to be slower than his, and it was, just by a hair.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life. To finally make the final, it’s just amazing,” he said. “I didn’t even want to watch that heat, knowing they were going to go pretty fast. But luck was on my side this time.”

For Brannen, this is about more than just a 33-year-old father proving his worth in a field of younger runners. It’s also about redemption.

Four years ago, the Canadian was tripped up in a knot of runners and fell in the Olympic semifinal in London. Bloodied, he picked himself up and finished the race – but had lost too much time to make the final.

He later called that fall in the semifinal “the lowest moment in my life.”

Now father of two living in Ohio, the former Preston High School track star says this will be his last Olympics. After a long and decorated career as an athlete, he wants to transition into coaching — a role he’s already filling with an all-boys school outside of Cleveland.

In making Saturday’s race, he’s fulfilled the last wish as an aging athlete.

“I’m probably the only guy in this final who’s got two kids at home and a wife, training and doing Daddy duty,” he said. “I’ve had people telling me, ‘Four years, it’ll happen in four years.’ I thought there’s no way. I’ll never get back to that fitness.”

But Brannen did.

Training often on his own, Brannen overcame a broken bone in his foot last year and slowly regained his fitness. He didn’t even put on his track spikes on until May.

Running in the morning and being a stay-at-home dad in the afternoon, he was able to train hard enough to gradually get himself back in Olympic-caliber shape, he said.

“A lot of people think at 30 you’re past your peak,” he said. “Most people move on, because there’s no money involved in this. But I don’t do this for the paycheque. I do it for the love of the sport.”

Brannen said it’s been an especially emotional Olympics knowing his four-year-old daughter Gianna and two-year-old son Grayson were watching at home on TV. This isn’t just about him anymore, he said.

“It brought a tear to my eye, thinking one day they’re going to know what this means,” he said.

“I’m on such a high right now that Saturday’s going to be awesome. I’m an Olympic finalist. It’s the best feeling ever.”


Battered and bruised, Yorke finishes triathlon

YorkeRioAndrew Yorke finished the men's triathlon at the 2016 Summer Olympics despite crashing his bike. AP photo/Bryn Lennon

Greg Mercer, Record staff

RIO DE JANEIRO — Andrew Yorke heard the crash up ahead as he rode down the hill Thursday morning in the bike portion of the Rio Olympic triathlon. He thought he’d be able to avoid it.

But Yorke, 27, who’d trained for this moment since he was a teenager, was soon sent flying off his bicycle and crashing to the ground.

What he didn’t know was that his Guelph training partner Jason Wilson, making history as the first Olympic triathlete from Barbados, was also caught up in the same crash.

As the leaders carried on ahead — led by two British brothers who would eventually claim gold and silver — the Canadian tried to save his race. Wilson’s bike, meanwhile, was beyond repair and he had to abandon the race.

Yorke ran with his broken bicycle until a technician could replace the front tire. He climbed back on, but the lost time was too much to make up. He finished 42nd, in one hour, 52 minutes and 46 seconds.

The Caledon-raised athlete, who trains with Wilson in Guelph under coach Craig Taylor, was bruised and battered as he limped across the finish line at Fort Copacabana. But he said he was determined to finish the race.

“I heard a crash about two or three bikes ahead of me. At that point, you’re just kind of guessing... You can’t see anything,” a disappointed Yorke said.

“I went to the right, and the guy’s bike kept travelling to the right. There was no place to go. It was either hit the barricade or the bike. I hit the back edge of the tire, my front wheel punctured and I went down right away.”

Yorke, competing in his first Olympics, didn’t know his friend had been in the same crash until the race ended, and was upset to learn the news. Their coach later said the Barbados-raised athlete was OK, but needed some medical attention.

Wilson was racing well before the collision, which also involved Britain’s Gordon Benson and other riders. He was 18th after the swim portion at Copacabana Beach, and was 23rd when he left the bike station to begin the 40-km cycling portion.

“Sport is cruel. It’ll break your heart, but that’s why we do it. There’s nothing better than it too. You take a gamble every time we race,” Yorke said. “I’ve only crashed twice in my professional career. It just sucks it happened here.”

He lost a few minutes due to the crash, Yorke said. His bike’s handlebars were bent in, his brakes were shot and changing the front tire cost him valuable time.

“I rode as hard as I could,” he said. “After a crash, you lose so much energy. You’re never going to win. At that point you know your race is over, you just do your best.”

But quitting wasn’t an option, he said.

“I was just telling myself, ‘Finish. You worked your whole life to get here to have the race of your life, and you don’t quit.' I just put my head down and rode the broken bike as hard as I could,” he said.

“I was just thinking of Canada, all my family and friends.”

The other Canadian in the race, 21-year-old Tyler Mislawchuk from Oak Bluff, Man., finished 15th with a time of 1:47:50, two minutes and 49 seconds behind the winner. Mislawchuk was the youngest competitor in the triathlon.

British brothers Alistair Brownlee, the defending Olympic champion, and Jonathan Brownlee won gold and silver, in 1:45.00 and 1:45.07.

Most frustrating, Yorke said, is that he came to Brazil in the best shape of his life. He was excited to make his Olympic debut, and started his race with a strong swim. Everything was going fine, until it wasn’t.

“I thought I was on point for a great race,” he said. “But you never quit, ever. That’s why I’m here.”