It was a surreal feeling for Ruby Stevens.
The swimmer from Toronto secured Canada’s first gold medal at the 2023 Parapan American Games on Saturday in the women’s S6 100-metre backstroke. It was one of four medals on the day for Canada, three of which came in the pool.
‘’It doesn’t quite feel real,” said Stevens, who has six more events remaining at her first major Games. ‘’My dream has come true. I’m happy and excited. I want to keep carrying that strength and determination all the way to the very end of the Games.’’
The 21-year-old set a new Parapan Am record of one minute 30.41 seconds in a decisive win. Stevens’s mark shattered the previous record of 1:33.03 set by Colombia’s Sara Varga at the 2019 Games in Lima, Peru.
Mexico’s Vianney Trejo earned silver (1:34.38), while Megan Gioffreda of the U.S. took bronze (1:34.42).
Vancouver table tennis player Stephanie Chan won Canada’s inaugural medal at the Games.
Chan, Canada’s oldest athlete in Santiago at 66, clinched a bronze medal when she lost her S6-7 combined class semifinal match to Giselle Munoz of Spain 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 on the official first day of competition.
“Today I wasn’t feeling well,” said Chan, who will undergo heart surgery after the Games. ‘’I had some problems with my breathing. (Giselle) played well but this heart problem did not allow me to play a lot this year.’’
Munoz will meet Claudia Perez of Mexico in the gold-medal match. Perez, the defending champion, received a bye to final because she was first in the preliminary round.
Chan is now a six-time medallist at the Parapan Am Games, including one gold, two silver, and three bronze.
‘’I’m so excited about the medal,” she added. ‘’After surgery I’ll come again to practice table tennis and be at the next Parapan Ams.’’
Canadian team coach Dejan Papic lauded Chan’s courage.
‘’She found the strength to compete once again for the Canadian team,’’ said Papic. ‘’Considering her condition at these Games this may have been her best achievement. She did much more than we expected.’’
Chan can add to her medal haul later this week when she competes in mixed doubles with Asad Hussain Syed of Toronto.
In the pool, Fernando Lu, of Langley B.C., won silver in the men’s S10 50 freestyle in a time of 25.28 seconds. The 16-year-old finished 1.35 seconds behind gold medallist Phelipe Melo of Brazil.
Tyson MacDonald, of Woodstock, Ont., gave Canada a fourth medal when he swam to bronze in the men’s S14 200 freestyle in time of 2:01.61.
The 27-year-old MacDonald won gold, silver, and bronze at the 2019 Games.
Also on Saturday, Canada opened the women’s wheelchair basketball competition with a convincing 61-44 win over Brazil.
Kady Dandeneau, of Pender Island, B.C., put on a dominant display with 25 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and five assists.
Arinn Young, of St. Albert, Alta., and Quebec City’s Cindy Ouellet each contributed 10 points.
Canada’s next game will be against El Salvador on Sunday.
Canada has a total of 135 athletes in Santiago, competing in 14 different sports.
Canada is seventh in the medal standings with its one gold and four overall medals.
Brazil is atop the leaderboard with 19 gold and 46 total medals, with Argentina and Colombia in second and third with five gold and 17 overall medals apiece.
The Games continue until Nov. 26.