Canada shut out of triathlon medals for first time in Pan Am Games history

TORONTO — Andrew Yorke's gamble nearly paid off with a medal, but men's triathlon at the Pan American Games rewarded those who didn't take risks.

The 26-year-old from Caledon, Ont., set a hard pace running out front the first half-kilometre of the run leg of Sunday's race.

Yorke then ran on the heels of leader Jason Wilson of Barbados until the final 2.5 kilometres. Both men were caught by competitors who had saved themselves for a final dash to the finish line.

The Canadian ran with gritted teeth in search of reserves for a second surge. There wasn't enough left in his gas tank, however, and he finished seventh.

"I like to race on my emotions a bit," Yorke said. "I felt that if someone was feeling good they were going to take it right away and no one would, so I said 'if you want it, come and get it. This is where I live. Come take it.'

"I felt with a lap to go, if I could be in it, no one was going to beat me. I just kind of hit the wall. I gave everything I had. I just didn't have quite enough today."

Crisanto Grajales of Mexico outsprinted Kevin McDowell of the U.S. in a footrace over the final metres for gold. Grajales gave Mexico its first Pan Am gold medal in men's triathlon as well as an automatic berth in Olympic men's triathlon next summer in Rio de Janeiro.

Countryman Irving Perez took bronze in the race that featured a 1,500-metre swim in Lake Ontario and a 40-kilometre bike and 10k run along Lakeshore Boulevard.

Tyler Mislawchuk of Oak Bluff, Man., was second after the swim, but a cracked rib suffered last week in a training race bike ride caught up to the 20-year-old during the run. He finished 10th.

"I think the adrenaline helped a little bit," Mislawchuk said. "I tried to feed off the crowd and had the best race I could today."

Bad luck forced Kyle Jones of Oakville, Ont., out of the race early. A competitor's bike struck a pylon, which shot into a tire valve on the Canadian's bike and ruined the tire.

"The bike was pretty much unrideable," said Jones, who finished fourth at two previous Pan Am Games. "Really disappointed. This is a race I've had on my radar for a long time."

For the second straight day, the host country had triathletes getting off their bikes in medal contention, but they lacked the finishing kick to get on the podium.

It's the first time in Pan Am Games history Canada hasn't won a triathlon medal. Canadians have won nine since the sport made its debut in 1995.

Calgary's Ellen Pennock was sixth, Edmonton's Paula Findlay ninth and Joanna Brown of Carp, Ont., 13th in the women's race Saturday.

Pennock, 22, needs more seasoning to consistently compete with the world's elite. Findlay raced with a bad cold while Brown was a replacement for injured Amelie Kretz of Blainville, Que.

So Canada's medal chances in triathlon were hampered by a combination of illness, injuries, inexperience, and in the case of Jones, misfortune.

"I'm sorry we didn't deliver medals," Triathlon Canada high-performance director Libby Burrell said.

"I know the public of Canada and all the people are looking around saying 'where all the medals?' But I can assure you, don't forget us, come Rio next year and especially Tokyo in 2020."

The men played it safe on the bike with a lone charge by a group of five quickly reeled in by a large chase pack. So over a dozen men galloped en masse out of the transition zone out onto the run.

Yorke charged into an early lead before he was overtaken by his friend and training partner Wilson. They ran one-two for seven kilometres before the Mexicans and McDowell tracked them down.

"I knew the pace they were going was way too hot and I'd blow up if I went out like that," McDowell said. "It was all about being patient and waiting until the right moment."

Yorke, who finished fourth at last year's Commonwealth Games, didn't regret pushing the pace early.

"I put myself in position to win and when you do that and you go as deep into the race as I did, you can never be disappointed in a race where you gave everything you have," he said.

The Canadian Press