Canada leads after Day 1 of Pan Am Games with eight medals, including four gold

TORONTO — Canada opened the 2015 Pan American Games with a gold medal, and the hosts didn't let up.

Canada's athletes combined for an impressive showing on home soil Saturday, ending Day 1 of the Games leading all other countries with four gold medals and eight overall.

It's the fast start Canada needed after setting a goal of finishing in the top two in the overall medal count.

The women's kayaking crew gave Canada the start it wanted on the first full day of competition. Michelle Russell of Fall River, N.S., Emilie Fournel of Montreal, KC Fraser of Oakville, Ont., and Hannah Vaughan of Dartmouth, N.S., finished first in the K-4 500 metres in one minute 36.495 seconds.

"I can't describe it," said an overwhelmed Russell. "I can't find the words to describe how it feels to win gold, in the Pan Am Games, in Toronto, on home soil, the very first medal. I can't."

It was the first of four gold medals for the Canadians on the day.

Jacqueline Simoneau and Karine Thomas booked a trip to the Rio Olympics with a gold in the duet synchronized swimming. Simoneau, an 18-year-old from Saint-Laurent, Que., and Thomas, 26, from Gatineau, Que., leaders after the technical program, scored 178.0881 for the gold.

The duo later collected their second gold when Canada won the team event. Simoneau and Thomas, along with Gabriella Brisson, Annabelle Frappier, Claudia Holzner, Lisa Mikelberg, Marie-Lou Morin, Samantha Nealon, and Lisa Sanders scored 178.1094 for the victory.

Later, Tory Nyhaug of Coquitlam, B.C., won the men's BMX competition in a time of 36.208 seconds.

"That's as perfect a day as you can get in a BMX race," Nyhaug said. "I knew the final was going to be a battle. I knew all week that I could do it. To come out on top is unbelievable."

Canadian divers added three medals, with Roseline Filion of Laval Que., and Montreal's Meaghan Benfeito winning silver and bronze in the women's 10-metre platform, and Philippe Gagne of Montreal claiming bronze in the men's three-metre springboard.

''It's too bad I didn't win a gold but I can't be disappointed with that performance,'' said Filion. ''I feel I was very consistent and just lacked aggressiveness on my dives.''

Ecaterina Guica of La Prairie, Que., added to Canada's medal haul with a silver in the women's 52-kilogram judo competition.

Guica lost in the gold-medal match to Brazil's Erika Miranda in the final judo match of the day.

"The fighting here was really great, but is sucks to end on a loss," Guica said. "I lost to her twice before so I was trying to do something different and she caught me again."

The United States, Mexico and Colombia finished Day 1 tied for second in the overall standings with seven medals. The U.S. is second in the gold-medal standings with three.

In rugby sevens, the Canadian women were perfect but the men stumbled late. The women won all three of their matches, outscoring the opposition 151-0. The men seemed destined to join them, winning their first two games before dropping a scrappy 21-7 decision to Argentina in the day's finale.

The men will play Chile in quarter-final action Sunday, with the winner advancing to play either the U.S or Guyana.

The Canadian women play Argentina to open the Sunday program before facing the U.S. in a likely meaningless final pool game. Barring a miracle, the two North American rivals will face off for gold later in the day.

Canada's women's soccer team opened defence of its gold medal with a 5-2 victory over Ecuador.

Janine Beckie and Shelina Zadorsky each scored twice and Emma Fletcher added the fifth goal.

The win was tainted when goalkeeper and captain Stephanie Labbe received a red card in the 86th minute. She will be suspended for Canada's next game.

In baseball action, Jordan Lennerton hit a home run to back a solid start from Chris Leroux and defending champion Canada opened with a 4-1 win over the Dominican Republic.

Justin Boyd had five goals as Canada defeated Mexico 19-9 in men's water polo to advance to a semifinal match with the United States on Monday.

Canada fell short of the podium in the women's triathlon. Calgary's Ellen Pennock was the top Canadian finisher in sixth place with Edmonton's Paula Findlay in ninth.

The Canadian Press