September 8, 2008 (Beijing, China) – Following a brilliant opening ceremony where emotions were flying high, it was time for the Canadian para-cycling to get into action. Day 1 on the Laoshan Velodrome was filled with hopes for great results. Great results in terms of medal hope, and also many personal best times would drop. The first ones to hit the track were the CP athletes, including Jean QuÃ©villon and Braydon McDougal.
20-year-old McDougal is at his first Paralympic Games, and he’s learning how to deal with it very quickly. On the 3000m individual pursuit, he managed to beat his personal best time by five seconds, dropping it to 4:15! After youth, came the experienced Jean QuÃ©villon. Jean rode a great qualifying round scoring a 4:03, good enough for 3rd place, and would return later on for the final for the bronze medal.
Meanwhile, the tandems were hitting the track. On the men’s side, Daniel Chalifour (with Alex Cloutier) and Brian Cowie (with Devon Smibert) were our top contenders for the 4000m, and neither proved us wrong. Brian and Devon rode a very strong 4:29 (53,5 km/h), good enough for a 5th place. As for Daniel and Alex, it was a good and a bad ride, depending on how you saw it.
The time was 4:25.5, good enough for 3rd (and a ride for bronze), but it was only 2/10 of a second behind second place, which would have earned them a spot in the gold medal final. The worst part about it is Alex had to ride around another tandem while they were lapping them. Could it mean 2/10 of a second, we’ll never know”¦
The girls then took on the scene. The newly formed duo of GeneviÃ¨ve Ouellet and Mathilde Hupin were competing in the 1000m race. Like Braydon, they followed the learning curve path and beat there personal best time with a 1:15,6, good enough for 6th place.
The time was now of for the final. Jean was the first one to go for his bronze medal. Once again, the coach / athlete duo of Jean and Eric Van Den Eynde proved to be a good one. Jean rode with constantly increasing pace to take nearly five seconds on his Spanish opponent. When you say a smile means everything, well, I thin Jean will now be smiling for the rest of the week with his bronze medal around his neck. After a podium in 2000 in the time trial (road), this medal was his first international success on the track.
After such a motivating act, Alex and Daniel wanted to follow and achieve the same. Like the morning qualifying ride, the early time splits were in the Australian’s favor for the first km. After 2000m, the gap has stabilized at about 2.5 seconds. As the whole crowd was cheering those two tandems on, I was looking at one thing – the score board. Would we have enough distance to bring back the deficit”¦ and will the Aussies crack under the pressure and fatigue like they did in the morning?
One thing you see in a top athlete is their feeling for a medal: the Australian duo certainly saw that today. When Alex and Daniel started to come back on them, they did not want to let the bronze medal go without a fight; and fighting they did. They manage to dig deep enough to hold a 1.5-second lead over the Canadians, and finally take our dream away.
Tomorrow will certainly be another day, but no one will take away Jean’s medal, and the personal best performances. Daniel and Alex will be coming back with a vengeance for the 1000m event. Our LC category riders, Mark Breton and Eric Bourgeault will also get into the action on Tuesday.