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COLUMNISTS

Sat, August 21, 2004

When close does count! (part 2)


ATHENS -- Canada had never won an Olympic medal in fencing before yesterday. But last night Sherraine MacKay, Monique Kavelaars and Julie Leprohon took our nation where we've never been before.

To the fencing venue. For a bronze-medal match. Against France.

MacKay, the Brooks elementary schoolteacher who moved to Paris to train with world-renowned coach Daniel Levavasseur, was devastated after losing her opening match in individual competition.

HAD THEIR MOMENT

There wasn't a medal attached to it yesterday, losing to France, but MacKay and mates ended up with their Olympic moment.

"One thing losing individually can give you is a desire to win a broken heart,'' she said. "I had five days to get over the broken heart. And that's the most desire I've seen consistently from these guys as a group."

MacKay, who currently teaches English to high-level athletes in Paris, said it hurt to lose in her first match in the individual.

"You think you're ready to do something great, then comes your Oprah moment," she said.

It hurt to lose 45-37 to France in the bronze-medal match. It also hurt to lose to Russia in the semifinal. But beating Hungary in the quarter-final to get there, to take Canada to a medal match in fencing - that was beautiful.

Beating Hungary meant beating Timea Nagy, the gold-medal winner in the individual.

"We'd never beaten Hungary," MacKay said of Canada's 38-37 overtime victory.

MacKay ended up leaving the venue kicking herself for what could have been, in the semifinal against Russia, the team which went on to beat Germany to win the gold.

"We'd never beaten France before, but we have beaten Russia," she said. "We were 18-18 against Russia and I was fencing the last match and we lost it. That was so disappointing. We'd have been guaranteed a medal. We'd have had at least a silver. We'd have been going for gold. My teammates kept saying it over and over again - 'It's a team sport. It's a team sport.' But we have a medal if I win my last match."

It turned out to be a 25-17 loss to the Russians. MacKay bounced back and won all three matches against the French trio, which included the Olympic silver- and bronze-medal winners from the individual. MacKay, who is ranked No. 8. in the world, scored 20 of Canada's 37 points in the bronze competition.

CHANCES ARE ...

For MacKay, the team event was a second chance.

For Kavelaars, of London, Ont., and Leprohon, of Montreal, it was their only chance.

"We know our only chance is as a team,'' said Kavelaars.

"To do what we did was huge ... Nobody expected Canada to do that. We fenced amazing today."

Hungary was ranked second in the world and Russia third. Canada went in ranked 10th.


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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