Updated: Saturday, August 20
This month, more than 300 Canadian athletes are making their way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to represent their country at the 2016 Olympic Games. Eight of them are from Nova Scotia — and five of them are Dal alumni.
Given that Dalhousie is a coastal university, it’s perhaps not surprising to find that all five alumni Olympians are taking part in water sports — three sailors and two paddlers. They are:
- Danielle Boyd, BA’13, sailing (Kingston, Ont.)
- Mark de Jonge, BEng’09, canoe/kayak (Halifax, N.S.)
- Genevieve Orton, BSc’13, canoe/kayak (Lake Echo, N.S.)
- The team of Graeme Saunders, BComm’14, and Jacob Saunders, DEng’14, sailing (Chester, N.S.)
For four of the five Dal athletes, this is their first taste of Olympic competition. The exception: Mark de Jonge, whose name you may remember from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London where he won the bronze medal in the 200m solo kayak event.
There are other Dalhousie connections across the Games as well. Nova Scotia artistic gymnast and medal hopeful Ellie Black has studied Kinesiology at Dal, though she put her studies on hiatus to focus on competition. She’ll be aided by another Dal connection: Lori Dithurbide, assistant professor (Kinesiology) in the School of Health and Human Performance who’s in Rio as a mental performance consultant for the women’s artistic gymnastics team. Four additional Dal alumni from the School of Health and Human Performance are in Rio: Leo Thornley and Michael Bawol are providing sport science and performance analysis support for Canada’s paddling team, Darren Steeves is working as a strength and conditioning coach, and Karen Furneaux is a CBC commentator.
Here’s a primer to the five Dal alumni athletes in Rio, as well as info on how you can watch them compete. We’ll be updating this article as the Olympics progress — and look for more coverage to come!
We're also encouraging the Dalhousie community to cheer on our athletes in Rio on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Film a quick video, snap a quick pic or just write a message of support using the hashtag #Dalympians and #Rio2016 and we’ll share the best with the rest of the Dalhousie community.
Sailing, women’s 49er FX
Team Canada website
Bio: Boyd was part of the Dalhousie Sailing Team that finished second at the 2012 Annual Student Yachting World Cup in France, back when she was an English/Psychology major. Now she’s teamed up with Halifax’s Erin Rafuse to make a formidable sailing team in the 49er FX category. The 49er is a class of two-handed skiff-type sailing dinghies that has been part of the Olympics since 2000; this year, its newer small rig, the FX, is making its Olympic debut. In 2015, Boyd and Rafuse competed at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and the world championships in Buenos Aires, where they achieved a career-best 17th-place result that qualified them for Rio.
Results: Team Boyd/Rafuse took part in 12 preliminary races between Friday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 16. Their best finishes were in the first two races, finishing fifth and fourth. The remainder of their finishes ranged between 11th and 18th place. The duo finished the preliminary round with a total of 145 points, ranking them 16th among the 20 teams. The finish placed them out of qualification for the medal race.
Mark de Jonge
Canoe/kayak, men’s K-1 200m (sprint)
Team Canada website
Bio: de Jonge is one of the best paddlers in the world and a prominent medal hopeful for Team Canada. A Dalhousie Civil Engineering grad, de Jonge made a major breakthrough at the 2012 London Olympics when he pulled off a thrilling third-place finish in the quick sprint solo kayak (K-1) 200m, bringing home a bronze medal for Canada. Since then, he’s racked up accomplishment after accomplishment: a World Cup gold medal in 2013, back-to-back ICF World Championships in 2014 and 2015, and a gold and a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. He also holds the world record in the K-1 200m event.
Results: de Jonge finished a comfortable third place in his first heat of the K-1 200m Friday, August 19, which placed him in the semi-finals later that morning. In a photo finish (.003 seconds ahead of his next competitor), de Jonge finished fourth in his semi-final, qualifying for the medal race. Unfortunately, despite a vaillant effort, de Jonge was up against a tough field in the final: his time of 36.080 would have won gold at his London medal race four years ago, but this year had him finishing seventh.
Canoe/kayak, women's K-2 500m (sprint)
Team Canada website
Bio: Orton has been paddling competitively for 16 years, winning Canadian, World Cup and world championship medals along the way. But she’s never made it to the Olympics, after failing to qualify in both 2008 and 2012. Now, having completed her Science degree at Dal and started a family, she’s finally made it to the world’s most prestigious sporting competition after winning a Pan American Continental Qualifier with her paddling partner KC Fraser from Oakville, Ont. In Rio, Orton will actually take part in two events: the two-person (K2) 500m kayak with Fraser, and the four-person (K4) 500m kayak
Results: In the K-2 500m on Monday, August 15, Orton and Fraser finished sixth in the first preliminary with a result of 1:46:14. They then finished fifth in the second semi-final with a time of 1:45:35, placing them out of medal competition. (They subsequently finished fifth with a time of 1:49:38 in the consolation final.)
Orton and her teammates in the K-4 500m overperformed expectations. Despite having almost no practice time together as a team, they built on a fourth-place finish in their preliminary heat with a surprise second-place in their semi-final, qualifying them for the medal race. Unfortunately, they couldn't quite keep up with the leading teams like Hungary and Germany in the final; Team Canada finished eighth with a time of 1:37.733.
Graeme and Jacob Saunders
Sailing, men’s 470
Team Canada website: Graeme, Jacob
Bio: The Saunders brothers are one of four sets of siblings on Team Canada for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Jacob (who completed his Engineering diploma at Dal in 2014) and Graeme (a 2014 Commerce grad) started racing at ages 11 and 13, respectively. With Jacob skippering and Graeme crewing, the two started sailing the 470 (a modern fibreglass planing dinghy) five years ago. After making the national team in 2013, and finishing seventh at the Sailing World Cup in Miami this past January, they were named to Canada’s Olympic team for Rio, where they’ll compete on a boat named after their hometown: Chester.
Results: The 10 preliminary races for the men’s 470 took place from Wednesday, August 10 through Tuesday, August 16. The Saunders' best finish was a 12th place result on Friday, August 12. Overall, the brothers finished 22nd out of the 26 teams with a total score of 159 — not enough to qualify for the medal race.
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