Pan Am silver and bronze for Greater Trail athletes

It was a bitter-sweet Pan American Games for Fruitvale’s Ella Matteucci and Thea Culley of Rossland.

It was a bitter-sweet Pan American Games for Fruitvale’s Ella Matteucci and Thea Culley of Rossland. But in the end, the Greater Trail athletes proved the epitome of class and competitive spirit, winning silver and bronze medals respectively at the 17th edition of the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Culley and Team Canada women’s field hockey team captured bronze in an exciting 1-0 victory over Chile on Friday, but only after a 3-0 loss to the eventual champion U.S.A. in the semifinal had foiled their chances at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

“We wanted to beat the Americans and play for the gold medal,” Culley told a CBC reporter. “We wanted to represent Canada and go for that gold medal game, but there was still a lot to play for.”

As for Matteucci and Team Canada women’s baseball team, following a 6-1 victory over Venezuela in the semifinal, the team would settle for silver on Sunday, after falling to rival U.S.A. 11-3 in the gold-medal match up.

“I’m proud of my entire team,”Canadian Manager André Lachance said in a Baseball Canada interview. “We had a great tournament and although this (loss) stings now, we will have a lot to be proud of when we look back (in the future).”

CBC’s controversial coverage of the Games was never more in question than on Sunday when the network ran a re-run of the Canadian men’s volleyball team’s bronze medal match against Puerto Rico, as Team Canada women’s baseball team battled the U.S. for gold in the sport’s first appearance in the Games.

The U.S. jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, as Canadian starter Vanessa Riopel went just one-third of an inning, giving up four runs on three hits and a walk. After going up 5-0 in the third, Canada would reply, scoring three times in the fourth inning against ace Sarah Hudek to cut the lead to 5-3.

However, any late-inning heroics was not in the cards in Sunday’s final, as Anna Kimbrell hit a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning to open up a close game as the Americans tacked on three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to crush Canada’s quest for gold.

Hudek, who hit in the clean-up spot, also drove in three runs, and gave up three runs on four hits while walking five and striking out two over 3 1/3 innings. Stacy Piagno pitched 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball the rest of the way.

Matteucci came into pitch hit in the seventh for Team Canada and, with two out, kept the team’s hopes alive when she was awarded first base after being hit by a pitch. However, the next batter would ground out to third to end the game.

Meanwhile, Culley and Canada’s Field Hockey team won it’s first medal at the Pan Am Games since 1999 with the 1-0 defeat of Chile on Friday night at the University of Toronto pitch.

Brienne Stairs scored at 5:02 of the fourth frame to net the winner on a deflection off a corner from veteran Kate Gillis.

Canada and Chile were relegated to the bronze medal game after losing their respective semifinals, Canada to the United States, while Chile lost 5-0 to Argentina. The U.S. would beat Argentina 2-1 in the final to claim gold.

Canada needed to win gold to claim a berth at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, but Stairs said it was important to come away with a medal before a loud, boisterous home crowd.

And for Culley and the other veterans, the win was a measure of revenge since losing to Chile in the bronze medal match in the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mex.

“For us, it was ‘let’s refocus, let’s honour ourselves and the hard work we’ve been doing for the past four years, or for some of us – eight-to-10 years – and finish on a high note and really achieve something we knew was possible.”

As for the whole Pan Am Games experience, as Culley says,  “it was Pan-Amazing.”

Pan Am Moments:

Thea Culley’s parents Lisa Henderson and Loren Culley of Rossland also attended the Games, and Henderson was featured in a Toronto Star article by Brendan Kennedy entitled, “It’s no Pan-Am picnic for parents watching their children compete.”

The piece describes the emotional roller coaster many of the parents go through as they continue to support their athlete offspring as they travel the world and compete in iconic events like the Pan Am Games.

Henderson also shares some of the unique superstitions that help the parents cope with the experience, and the special moment she shared with Thea after the bronze-medal match.

“Sometimes it’s harder to watch from the sidelines, because you’re helpless,” Henderson said.

To view the full article go to: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/panamgames/2015/07/25/its-no-pan-am-picnic-for-parents-watching-their-children-compete.html

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