RIO DE JANEIRO – Derek Drouin emphatically got Canada back on track at the Rio Olympics, laying down an inspiring performance to win the gold medal in the men’s high jump on Tuesday.
Canada was coming off its first day without a medal, but Drouin highlighted Day 11 at the Games with a slick series of jumps, not missing an attempt en route to taking the gold medal at 2.38 metres.
The reigning world champion from Corunna, Ont., won the third gold and 14th overall medal for Canada at these Games.
“It feels pretty sweet,” Drouin said. “There have been some sacrifices but I’ve always prided myself on my mental toughness. My family were in the front row. Mom was in tears and Pop was so proud.”
Mutaz Barshim of Qatar won silver at 2.36 and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko claimed bronze at 2.33.
Bondarenko’s risky strategy didn’t pay off. He passed at 2.29 and 2.36 metres and tried to put pressure on Drouin at 2.38.
But Drouin cleared his first attempt at that height and Bondarenko missed his first two. He then took his last attempt at 2.40 and missed, giving Drouin his second Olympic medal. Drouin won bronze at the 2012 London Games.
After taking a single run at 2.40 and missing, in an attempt to break the Olympic record of 2.39, an emotional Drouin help up the Canadian flag, tearing up as he faced his parents and his sisters in the stands.
There were also tears for two of Canada’s women’s teams, but they were of an entirely different nature.
The basketball team missed out on a chance at a medal after falling 68-63 to France in the quarter-finals, and the Canadian women’s soccer team will have to settle for defending the bronze they won four years ago in London after a 2-0 semifinal loss to Germany.
In the basketball tournament, Canada’s offence dried up in the fourth quarter as France slowly pulled away late to clinch the win book a date with the United States in the semifinals.
Captain Kim Gaucher led the way for Canada, ranked No. 9 in the world, with 15 points and five rebounds.
Gaucher said she felt “gutted” after the loss.
“Just like you’ve been punched in the stomach,” she added.
In soccer, goals by Melanie Behringer and Sara Daebritz on either side of halftime dashed Canadian dreams of reaching the final as the second-ranked Germans efficiently ended the Canadians’ four-game win streak. Down 2-0 after 59 minutes, Canada came on in waves but was unable to make ground before a sparse crowd at Mineirao Stadium.
Once the final whistle blew, tearful Canadian players were left to console each other on the field.
“It feels like crap right now,” said midfielder Jesse Fleming. “I wanted to win a gold medal. But we’re going to win bronze? It sucks.”
The Germans defended in numbers, with goalkeeper Almuth Schult a formidable barrier, and then looked to counter-attack or just hammer the ball downfield.
The Germans will play No. 6 Sweden in Friday’s final at the storied Maracana in Rio. The Swedes defeated No. 8 Brazil 4-3 on penalties after the game ended 0-0 following extra time.
Canada, which finished third four years ago in London after losing to the U.S. in the semifinals, will face the Olympic hosts earlier Friday in Sao Paulo for bronze. The two teams know each other well, splitting a two-game exhibition series in Canada prior to the Games.
Elsewhere on the track, star sprinter Andre De Grasse cruised into the semifinals of the men’s 200 metres in his quest for a second Olympic medal.
The 21-year-old Markham, Ont., runner, who won a bronze in the marquee 100 metres on Sunday night, was first in his heat in 20.09 seconds, the best time of the day. Toronto’s Aaron Brown also made the cut in 20:23 seconds. The semifinals are Wednesday with the final set for Thursday night.
In other preliminary events Tuesday, Nathan Brannen of Cambridge, Ont., and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot of Quebec City both advanced to the semifinals in the men’s 1,500, while Nikkita Holder of Pickering, Ont., and Phylicia George of Markham moved on to the semifinals in the women’s 100-metre hurdles.
Canada was looking to add to its medal count on Tuesday with Derek Drouin of Corunna, Ont., competing in the high jump final. Meanwhile, Johnathan Cabral of Peribonka, Que. will hope to make it into medal contention by racing in the semifinals in the 110-metre hurdles.
Canadians once again struggled in the water, with the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist in the men’s open water race failing to make the podium.
Richard Weinberger from Surrey, B.C. finished 16.6 seconds back of gold medallist Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands, placing the Canadian in 17th.
Jacqueline Simoneau of Saint-Laurent, Que., and Karine Thomas of Gatineau, Que., finished seventh in the synchronized swimming duet final.
Boxer Mandy Bujold’s quest for a medal in her Olympic debut came to an end, as the native of Kitchener, Ont., lost a unanimous decision to Ren Cancan of China in the women’s flyweight quarter-finals.
Track cyclist Hugo Barrette of Iles de la Madeleine, Que. lost his repechage race by 38 hundredths of a second to world championship bronze medallist Azizulashni Awang of Malaysia in the men’s keirin event.
Calgary’s Allison Beveridge placed 11th in women’s track cycling omnium.
In diving, Phillipe Gagne of Ville de Mont Royal, Que., finished 11th in the final of the men’s three-metre springboard.