NEWS
10/27/2011 12:41 EDT | Updated 12/26/2011 05:12 EST

Spencer wins, Beaudry defends title and Canadian paddlers win gold at Pan Ams

GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Earlier in the week, Mexican fans were chanting Mary Spencer's name at the Expo Guadalajara Arena.

On Wednesday night, the Canadian boxer muted the energetic spectators with a resounding victory over one of their own.

Spencer was dominant in a 19-5 victory over Alma Ibarra of Mexico in the women's boxing 75-kilogram semifinal. The three-time world champion — a fan favourite when she beat an American in the quarter-finals — will fight for gold on Friday night.

"I beat a Mexican and they didn't boo me," Spencer said with a smile. "That's good I guess. They'll enjoy it even more in a couple days."

Her performance capped a solid day for Canadian athletes, who won two golds and eight medals in all to boost the overall total to 83 (23 gold, 26 silver, 34 bronze). Philippe Beaudry successfully defended his fencing title in the individual sabre final and the women's K4 500-metre squad won paddling gold.

Canada is fourth in the overall standings. The United States is well out in front with 187 medals. Brazil is next with 90 and Mexico has 84.

Beaudry defeated American Timothy Morehouse 15-14 in the final while teammate Joseph Polossifakis — also of Montreal — earned a bronze.

"The last touch, it was very intense but I was able to make it," Beaudry said.

In paddling, Kathleen Fraser of Oakville, Ont., Kristin Gauthier of Ottawa, Alexa Irvin of Kentville, N.S., and Una Lounder of Dartmouth, N.S., finished first in one minute 37.724 seconds. Mexico took silver in 1:37.799 and Cuba was third in 1:39.105.

"It was a really good race for us," Lounder said. "At the end, we weren't even sure if we won, and we were so excited when we saw it was gold.

"I raced in the K4 last year at the Pan Am championships and finished out of the medals, so I'm happy with this result."

Meanwhile, Edmonton's Angela Whyte won silver in the women's 100-metre hurdles, Kristina Vaculik of Whitby, Ont., took bronze in women's all-around artistic gymnastics and diver Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal won bronze in the 10-metre platform.

The boxing team won two more bronze medals. Mian Hussain of Montreal dropped a 14-7 decision to Mexico's Oscar Molina in a men's 69-kilo fight while Mexico's Erika Cruz beat Quebec City native Sandra Bizier 12-6 in a women's 60-kilo bout.

"Tonight I didn't get the result I wanted," Bizier said. "Having a bye in the first round I feel I waited too long to fight. I was too excited."

Brody Blair of Pictou, N.S., won a bronze on Tuesday and Mandy Bujold of Kitchener, Ont., will fight for gold on Saturday. This is the first time women's boxing has been held at the Pan Am Games and it's also set to make its Olympic debut next year in London.

Spencer has become the face of the women's sport in Canada. She has won national titles each year since 2004 and won her third world title in 2010 after moving up from the 66-kilo weight class.

The five-foot-11 fighter from Windsor, Ont., was in form from the start of her semifinal bout, using her slick footwork and raw power to leave her opponent flustered. Spencer made a point of changing things up by using more combinations.

"This time I opened up my own shots and put punches together better," she said.

The Canadian wasn't fazed by the chanting fans, who were stomping on the bleachers in the 1,576-seat venue to help give Ibarra a boost. Spencer won the opening round 5-2 and fans started heading for the exits when she outscored the Mexican 6-1 in the second round.

Spencer will fight Yenebier Guillen of the Dominican Republic for the championship. A victory would give her a nice boost as she gears up for her ultimate goal of winning Canada's first Olympic boxing gold since Lennox Lewis in 1988.

After the Pan Ams, she'll have the national championships in January followed by the world championships — which serve as an Olympic qualifier — in March.

On the track, Whyte finished second in the hurdles with a time of 13.09 seconds. Yvette Lewis of the U.S. was first in 12.82 seconds, while Lina Flores of Colombia equalled Whyte's time of 13.09 seconds in taking third.

"It was not my best race, but I'm happy," Whyte said. "I wanted to win a medal for the team and for my country. Next year is important, with the Olympics. We have five good girls in this event for the 2012 Olympic Games and only three spots are available.

"I want one of those spots."

In the pool, Benfeito was third with 358.20 points. Paola Espinosa won gold with 370.60 points, just 1.55 points ahead of Mexican teammate Tatiana Ortiz.

“I was expecting a little more, but a bronze medal is still absolutely amazing," Benfeito said. "I have nothing to complain about.”

Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., just missed the podium. She finished fourth with 345.65 points.

Vaculik won bronze in women's all-around artistic gymnastics with 54.775 points.

Bridgette Caquatto of the U.S. won gold with 55.875 points, while Guatemala's Ana Sofia Gomez was second with 55.425 points. Toronto's Christine Lee was fourth with a score of 54.575.

There was a scary moment when Peru's Sandra Collantes was injured in a fall from the uneven bars. Collantes was taken away on a stretcher and her condition was not immediately known. Assistant venue manager Jose Tapia said she had leg, neck and back injuries but did not offer further details.

Canada locked up a berth in the women's water polo final with a 15-9 victory over Cuba.

Montreal's Marina Radu scored four times in the first half to give Canada an 8-3 lead. Cuba fought back to make it a two-goal game before Canada pulled ahead with three goals by Calgary's Emily Csikos and a pair by Joelle Bekhazi of Hamilton.

The U.S. crushed Brazil 13-1 in the other semifinal. Canada will play the Americans for gold on Friday.

"It was closer than we liked," Canadian head coach Patrick Oaten said. "I just think we were so focused on the U.S. and the final, that we didn't pay attention to little details today.

In the preliminary round men's basketball opener, Canada rallied to upset Argentina 83-79 in overtime. Philip Scrubb of Richmond, B.C., led all scorers with 35 points.

The Canadians trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter, but Scrubb hit a three-pointer down the stretch to send the game into overtime.

Scrubb finished 8-for-15 from behind the three-point line.

"We made plays when it mattered and made some important foul shots in the overtime," said Dave Smart, Canada's head coach. "Phil made some plays in crucial moments and played very well after the first four minutes, but we dominated them on the boards. We out-rebounded them 46-28 and that's really what did it.

"They probably outplayed us in every other facet but we did a lot of the hard work to keep ourselves in the game."

Ottawa's Tyson Hinz added 13 points for Canada, while Nicolas Laprovittola led four Argentines in double figures with 16.

Canada, which has never won a medal in men's basketball at the Pan Am Games, faces host Mexico on Thursday and then favourite Puerto Rico on Friday.

Rueben Ross of Regina and Eric Sehn of Edmonton finished sixth in the men's synchronized three-metre springboard final.

Canada lost 4-2 to the U.S. in the women's field hockey semifinal. Brienne Stairs of Kitchener, Ont., had both goals for the Canadians, who take on Chile for bronze Friday.

The men's field hockey team will take on Cuba in semifinal play Thursday morning. The winner will play for gold on Saturday.