Philibert-Thiboutot wins Canada’s first track and field gold at Pan American Games

Article content

SANTIAGO — Charles Philibert-Thiboutot dived for a finish line for the first time in his career to gain a Pan American Games gold medal Thursday.

Advertisement 2

Article content

The Quebec City runner tumbled onto the Estadio Nacional track while crossing the finish line just two hundredths of a second faster than teammate Rob Heppenstall of Hamilton in the men’s 1,500 metres.

Article content

“I saw that Rob was leading and I had a moment of ’Yes, we’re going to go one-two’ and then I remembered, ’I really want this damn gold. I really want it so bad,”’ Philibert-Thiboutot said.

“So I just (dived) at the line. I never had before.”

The 32-year-old captured Canada’s first track and field gold medal at these Games although Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S., followed minutes later with her victory in a women’s shot.

Philibert-Thiboutot also earned men’s 5,000-metre silver earlier in the week. He’d crossed the line third, but was upgraded when Mexico’s Fernando Martinez, who crossed the line first, was disqualified for obstruction and jostling.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Julie-Anne Staehli of Lucknow, Ont., was a bronze medallist in the women’s 5,000 metres to make it a four-medal Thursday for Canada’s track team.

Philibert-Thiboutot and Mitton also gave the Canadian team its 36th and 37th gold medals overall, surpassing Canada’s total of 35 won at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

Steppenhall surged from mid-pack to front-runner over the final 150 metres of the 1,500 with a crush of competitors on his heels.

“It’s been a super-hard year for me. I went through this whole year without any sponsorship,” Steppenhall. “Kind of living paycheque to paycheque really within the sport.

“To be able to end off 2023 on such a high note, probably the highest one of my career, I couldn’t ask for a better finish. To be behind one of the Canadian legends, I couldn’t ask for a better finish.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

Mitton dominated women’s shot put from the outset with a throw of 18.90 metres in the first round. The 27-year-old upgraded to 19.19 in the fifth and sixth rounds, while none of her competitors threw over 18.

The Pan Am Games come at the end of a long season for Mitton, who earned world championship silver and finished second in the international Diamond League series. Early November would normally be the off-season for the thrower.

“The Pan American Games, I had an experience in Peru in 2019 and did OK for my first Games, but I really wanted to come and earn that for my country,” Mitton said. “It means a lot to be able to come here and compete again for my country.”

Mitton acknowledged she lacked the “quick-pop fire” she had in the summer when she threw 20.08 metres to get on the world podium in Budapest, Hungary.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“The consistency and that bottom level for me, I was very happy with the 18.90 to start, (it gave me) confidence,” she said. “To be able to open with that and build on it through the competition was really cool.”

Philibert-Thiboutot didn’t compete in Lima or Tokyo’s Olympic Games in 2021 because of a run of injuries between 2018 and 2020 _ Achilles tendon, foot stress fracture, calf muscle tear.

“I had a rough three or four years there,” he said. “I decided to make a move to spend most of my time in Vancouver with my physiotherapist.

“I do physio at least twice a week to maintain my biomechanics, to maintain my good posture. I’ve modified training. I’m getting older. I can train hard, but I need more rest. It’s paying off because I’m healthy.”

His time of three minutes 32.94 at a French meet in June put him under the Olympic qualifying standard for the 1,500 and made him the second-fastest Canadian all-time in that distance.

So Philibert-Thiboutot has all but punched his Olympic ticket to Paris next year.

“We can feel confident I can just prepare for Paris,” he said.

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis.

Article content


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

    Advertisement 1