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Whitney McClintock earns water skiing gold medal at Pan American Games

GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Whitney and Jason McClintock were balancing on water skis by the time they were walking, and before either of them can even remember.

Their parents' philosophy was: if they could stand, they could stand on skis. Their dad Jeff would run pulling them through the shallows of Lake Puslinch in Cambridge, Ont.

Two decades later, it's no surprise Canada's first family of water skiing dominated the sport at the Pan American Games, with Whitney winning a gold and three silver medals and brother Jason claiming a pair of silver.

"I don't remember skiing for the first time, but my dad always tells people he took us out skiing before we could say no. We were two years old, both of us, and there's video of us so we know it happened," said Whitney, whose parents travelled to Guadalajara for the Games.

"They pretty much follow us around the world," Whitney said. "It's good to have the support system, having them there makes us feel more loved."

The 22-year-old Whitney took gold in the women's tricks event Sunday before adding a silver in the slalom event and a silver in the jump final. She also was second in Saturday's overall to finish the Games with four medals.

"My goal was definitely four golds, but it was a big goal for the end of the season," she said. "This has definitely been a long season for us, our worlds were in July, and this is a long way from July. I'm really happy with the way the weekend turned out."

Teammate Karen Stevens of Iroquois, Ont., added two bronze medals in the slalom and jump events, a day after claiming bronze in the overall.

Jason McClintock, 24, won a silver medal in the men's tricks event and another silver in men's slalom at Chapala, sending Canada's water-ski team home with 10 medals.

"He's been on a lot of national teams with me, and it's always so nice to have him here," Whitney said of her brother. "He's disappointed with his silver medals today as well, he was capable of gold, so we're both a little disappointed. But it's great to be at the Pan Am Games, we loved the experience, and the Mexican population loves the water skiing."

Elsewhere, Canada won a gold and silver in equestrian events. Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, Ont., won the individual eventing competition, and teamed up with James Atkinson of Mountain Road, Man., Hawley Bennett of Langley, B.C., Rebecca Howard of Salmon Arm, B.C., and Serena O'Hanlon of Elgin, Ont., to win silver in the team eventing competition.

Canada's women's softball team settled for silver after suffering a four-inning, 11-1 loss to the United States in the final.

Brent McMahon of Victoria won bronze in the men's triathlon.

Sunny Dhinsa of Abbotsford, B.C., earned silver in the men's 120-kilogram freestyle wrestling competition.

Jeffrey Adamson of Saskatoon took bronze in the men's 84-kg division while Steven Takahashi of London, Ont., also won bronze in the men's 55-kg division after his opponent failed to make weight.

"I thought I should have done better, but it’s a big stepping stone in my career," Takahashi said.

Canada has won 66 medals (18 gold, 23 silver, 25 bronze) and trails first-place America (156) and Brazil (67) in the standings.

The McClintocks were water-skiing competitively by the age of seven. Their aunt Judy and uncle Joel were world champions and their parents were both national team skiers and ran their own ski school in Cambridge.

"Every step we were capable of taking growing up, our parents were pushing us through it," said Jason, who has a colourful nautical-themed tattoo of sea monsters and buried treasure running the length of his left upper arm. "I don't even remember running the course the first time, I was four or five.

"It's cool. I've been on the water longer than most people double my age."

Whitney is the two-time defending world slalom champion, and 2009 world slalom, trick and overall world champion. Yet because it's not an Olympic sport, the McClintocks aren't well known outside of the water-skiing world.

Canadian coach Matt Rini admits competing in relative obscurity can be frustrating.

"It's easy to look at an Olympic gymnast or an Olympic track runner and know the amount of work that goes into that, because it's well-publicized and everybody knows when you stand beside those people or watch them run," Rini said.

"If you can't see what these guys do, you can't understand what it takes to do what they do. When you're standing on the side of the lake and see someone fly 220 feet, your eyes get really big and you go 'wow, this isn't just the cottage skiing I know or the rest of the world knows.'"

The water skiing was held at Boca Laguna, a man-made private water-skiing run that's linked to Lake Chapala, the largest natural lake in Mexico stretching 100 kilometres long. The town of Chapala is known for its large population of Canadians — as many as 10,000 during some times of the year.

Meanwhile, Canada's equestrian team finished with 172.50 penalty points in team eventing to finish behind the gold-medal winning U.S. (138.60).

"I'm so proud to be part of our team," said Howard. "I'm really excited about my first medal and now I'm really keen and hungry to start a collection."

Brazil won bronze with 209.80 penalty points.

McMahon captured the second Pan Am Games medal of his career, finishing the triathlon course in Puerto Vallarta in one hour 48 minutes 23 seconds behind first-place Reinaldo Colucci of Brazil (1:48.02) and American Manuel Huerta (1:48.09).

The 30-year-old McMahon returned to elite racing earlier this year after taking 18 months off with a career-threatening knee injury.

"I did everything I could to come out of here with the gold but I just came up a little short," said McMahon. "I put everything out there today and I'm super happy to win a medal for Canada."

Brienne Stairs of Kitchener, Ont., and Kate Gillis of Kingston, Ont., scored in the final minute as Canada's women's field hockey team beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-1.

The victory earned Canada its first semifinal appearance since 1999.

"It was a hard game, but we're glad we came through with a win," said Gillis. "I think we can take this momentum and go into our semifinal game flying."

The softball team's loss to U.S. in four innings came less than an hour after the Canadians defeated Cuba 4-0 in the semifinals. The Americans' gold medal marked their seventh in a row.

"They are bigger, but I always like to say it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog," said Toronto centre-fielder Joanne Lye. "So while this tournament does give the impression there's a huge gap to fill (between Canada and the U.S.), if we bring our game and our pitchers are on and everything's working for us, it's a very small gap."

Canada went 7-3 in the tournament.

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