November 22, 2017

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Manitoba women paddle canoe to heart-stopping bronze-medal finish

Nicole Boyle (right) and Maddy Mitchell give it their all as they cross the finish line in the female C2 - 200 race. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Nicole Boyle (right) and Maddy Mitchell give it their all as they cross the finish line in the female C2 - 200 race. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Maddy Mitchell and Nicole Boyle had one of those days on the Red River where the emotions came in waves.

The Manitoba paddlers added to the provincial medal haul with a gutsy bronze-medal performance Thursday afternoon in the female C-2 200-metre final of the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

An hour later, they returned to the canoe for the 500-m event but fell just short of a top-three showing.

"Unfortunately, we used all our energy in that race and didn't have a lot left for the second one," said Mitchell, who has three medals this week but just as easily could have a couple more.

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Maddy Mitchell and Nicole Boyle had one of those days on the Red River where the emotions came in waves.

The Manitoba paddlers added to the provincial medal haul with a gutsy bronze-medal performance Thursday afternoon in the female C-2 200-metre final of the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

Nicole Boyle (right) and Maddy Mitchell give it their all as they cross the finish line in the female C2 - 200 race which they finished 3rd in winning them a bronze medal at the Canada Summer Games at the Manitoba Canoe and Kayak Centre Venue Thursday afternoon. Saskatchewan is in yellow to their right. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Nicole Boyle (right) and Maddy Mitchell give it their all as they cross the finish line in the female C2 - 200 race which they finished 3rd in winning them a bronze medal at the Canada Summer Games at the Manitoba Canoe and Kayak Centre Venue Thursday afternoon. Saskatchewan is in yellow to their right. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

An hour later, they returned to the canoe for the 500-m event but fell just short of a top-three showing.

"Unfortunately, we used all our energy in that race and didn't have a lot left for the second one," said Mitchell, who has three medals this week but just as easily could have a couple more.

"The other three are all fourth-place finishes, which sucks. Lots of them were very close, like less than a second, so it seems odd. I'm happy about getting a medal every day but then I'd get a fourth-place that day as well, so it's disappointing.

"I'm of course happy about it, but judging by how close everything else was I'm a little disappionted."

Despite being a strong and skilled combination, Mitchell and Boyle's third-place finish in the C-2 200-m final behind Ontario and Quebec was a bit of a surprise — even to them.

In a veritable photo finish, the Manitobans pushed ahead of Nova Scotia by just two-tenths of a second at warm but windy Manitoba Canoe & Kayak Centre in a time of 46.71 seconds to reach the podium.

"It was a really tough race. Nicole and I would have never thought we'd medal in the 20-m, we're not necessarily short distance people. We both prefer long distances," said Mitchell, who has three medals (silver and a pair of bronze this week). "There was even a point in time when we were questioning even doing the 200-m.

"But we were doing a lot of sprints in practice and we were doing really good and our coach was even surprised. So, going in it, we were feeling pretty confident but we never expected to come away with a medal so that's great.

Race officials added to the drama, needing a few minutes to check the tape to make sure of the order of finish.

"I was pretty sure we snagged that medal but I wasn't positive. We waited on the dock and when we heard (the announcement) we screamed, we were crying, it was amazing," said Boyle, 18. "It's amazing to get a medal at the Canada Games. It's really honouring to be here and represent my province.

"Making it on the podium is a dream come true, it's amazing."

She's only called Winnipeg her part-time home since moving to the city from Saskatoon in 2015 for a few months of the season to train. The bronze was her second medal of the week after partnering with Mitchell to secure a silver in the female C-2 1,000-m final Monday.

Mitchell also won bronze in the individual C-1 1,000-m final Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in the male K-2 200-metre final, Hayden Fellner and James Lavallee of Manitoba finished just outside the medals. They clocked in at 35.005, behind Quebec, Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Later in the day, the tandem placed fifth in the male K-2 500-metre final.

Boyle, who works the right side while Mitchell steers the canoe from the left, said they did their best to challenge in the 500-m but simply had no gas left in the tank.

"You get back on the dock and you feel like you were just there going out for the other race. You're really tired and you don't necessarily have the energy that you want, but you just have to go out there and do it again," she said. "We're surrounded by amazing paddlers. The wind picked up and it was very difficult to steer.... we couldn't quite pull it together."

Both paddlers have races on Friday. Mitchell has the body- and mind-numbing individual five-kilometres race in the afternoon.

She was asked what she think about during the excruciating, half-hour race.

 

"How much I don't want to be out there," she said, laughing. "You do a hard start and you realize, because it's done in laps, that it's going to suck. You go hard your first lap and then you realize you have to be going hard for the next four laps. And you're just counting it down. There's not really any positive thoughts.

"The only thing going through your head is if you are in medal contention, that's the only thing that makes it worth it. The whole thing is painful."

Recently, female canoe was added to the Olympics in time for 2020 in Tokyo.

Mitchell, who has her sights set more on 2024, said that changes everything.

"I think it's definitely raised the bar for canoeing in Canada. The sport has definitely grown in the past few years," she said. "But it's definitely more difficult to make the national team in Canada because we have some of the best in the world. Of course, there's hope but it will definitely be unbelievably difficult to make the Olympic team some day."

 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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