Canada gets Pan Am Games off to golden start

Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:00pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada got the Pan American Games off to a golden start topping the medal table after claiming four gold on Saturday and Toronto plenty of reason to come out and join the Pan Am party.

Talk of sluggish ticket sales disappeared under a brilliant Canadian summer sun as large enthusiastic crowds turned out at many venues to cheer on their home country.

But attendance problems appear far from over as large swathes of empty seats could still be seen some events particularly at soccer and rugby.

Canadian synchronized swimmers Jacqueline Simoneau and Karine Thomas, Chilean triathlete Barbara Riveros and Mexican divers Rommel Pacheco and Paola Espinosa earned direct qualifying spots into next year's Rio Olympics as a bonus for winning gold in their events.

Riding a wave of hometown support, Canada's women kayakers won the first gold of the Games as Michelle Russell, Emilie Fournel, KC Fraser and Hannah Vaughan powered home ahead of Cuba in the K-4 500 meters.

"The crowd was cheering so loud I can't even explain it. In words, I can't even explain it," said Fraser.

"When we got to the last 200 meters of our race you just hear the crowd screaming so loud and it just gives you that drive."

Canada's golden success continued in the synchronized swimming pool with Simoneau and Thomas winning the duet competition and then were back in the water a few hours later to help Canada to the team title.   Continued...

Jacqueline Simoneau and Karine Thomas of Canada compete in the synchronized swimming duets during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports