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'They are definitely carrying Team Canada right now': Canadian women owning the Olympic podium in Tokyo

Last Updated Jul 28, 2021 at 6:31 am PDT

Canada's Margaret Mac Neil, left to right, Rebecca Smith, Kayla Sanchez and Penny Oleksiak celebrate a silver medal in the women's 4 x 100m freestyle relay during the Tokyo Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday, July 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Women have won Canada's first nine medals of the Tokyo Olympics

B.C. Olympian says women's dominance during these Olympics is paving the way for young athletes

'It lets young girls know, 'I can do that,'' says Olympian Leah Pells

TOKYO (CityNews) – Canadian women are owning the podium in Tokyo for this country, winning our first nine medals of the Olympics.

That has Leah Pells, a B.C. Olympian, beaming with pride. Pells, who competed in three Olympics from 1992 to 2000 as a track and field athlete, hopes this trend will help inspire girls in the years to come.

“It tells me that women are starting to claim the space that we’ve always wanted and deserved. So it makes me feel pretty happy, feel proud,” Pells told CityNews Vancouver.

“It’s permission giving, right? It lets young girls know, ‘I can do that.’ So we really need that. It’s awesome for the up-and-comers, the young girls that are practicing and doing their thing now.”

Pells says this kind of example shows girls there are opportunities for them in professional sports, and that the sky is the limit.

Lina Setaghian with Sportsnet 650 points out this isn’t the first time Canadian women have led the way.

“The women athletes also led Canada’s medal charge four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, accounting for 16 of Canada’s 22 medals,” she explained. “They are definitely carrying Team Canada right now.”

Pells says over the years, it’s been clear that women have been excelling.

“I feel like we’re starting to claim more medals, and it doesn’t surprise me that we’ve already got eight medals from eight really awesome, strong women,” she said, just hours before Canada picked up its ninth medal.

Setaghian says the talent pool at the Tokyo Olympics is particularly of note, but women aren’t just dominating the podium. She tells CityNews, Canada’s female athletes are showing their strengths and breaking records while doing so.

“One of them being the first judo medal won by Jessica Klimkait. She won a bronze medal in the under-57 kilogram category. And then the other record breaker is the women’s softball team — their 3-2 win over Mexico marked [Canada’s] first medal in the sport,” the co-host of OT on Sportsnet 650 explained.

Jessica Klimkait, from Whitby, Ont. competes against Poland’s Julia Kowalczyk in quarter-final action in 57kg women’s Judo competition at the Tokyo Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

We also can’t forget Penny Oleksiak’s bronze medal win in the 200-metre freestyle event on Wednesday. The podium finish made her the most decorated Canadian summer Olympian in history.

“It’s safe to say that women are definitely making their mark — Canadian women especially — in the Olympics,” Setaghian added.

As Canada’s women continue to show their strengths, #SheTheNorth has started trending on social media, paying tribute to these athletes.

“I think most of social media is just saying it’s about time that women are being recognized, and now more than ever with social media people are noticing that women are making their mark,” said Setaghian.

While she normally focuses on the track events, Pells says there have been standout moments in many of the sports.

Namely, she cites Maggie Mac Neil’s reaction after she made the podium earlier this week, winning Canada’s first gold medal of the games.

“It’s always wonderful to see someone finish like Maggie in the swimming, kind of trying to look and see if she won or not, because she was saying she can’t really see the scoreboard, so that was pretty cool,” said Pells.

When it comes to girls and women trying to break into professional sports, Pells says it’s important they stay true to themselves.

“Remember why you’re doing sport, and stay really close to that. Focus on what you’re doing and what you can control, because there’s lots of things that are out of our control that we can’t claim, but we can control what we’re doing, how we do it, when we do it, and why we do it,” she said, adding it can be easy to get caught up in your thoughts when you’re competing at a high level like at the Olympics.