The Canadian women’s water polo team dropped its first Olympic match in 17 years on Saturday in Tokyo.
Canada lost 8-5 to Australia despite a hat trick from co-captain Monika Eggens in her 500th international appearance.
Eggens scored back-to-back goals in the second quarter, and another toward the end of the match.
With three Olympic medals in the sport, and a 2019 world championship bronze, the Australians capitalized on strong skips to stay ahead throughout the match.
While Australia was first on the board, Canada’s Kyra Christmas of High River, Alta., scored the equalizer before the end of the first quarter.
After the match, Christmas fought through tears as she reflected on the journey she and her teammates took to Tokyo.
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“It just means a lot to me. We’re all first-time Olympians. Our team has been working so hard to get here, so just finally hearing the national anthem, reaching our goal to finally get to the Olympics, it’s like a dream come true,” she said.
The team went out with some nerves in their debut, she said, but still performed admirably.
“I think we know what we need to work on, and we know what we need to build on. We’re just moving past it and looking forward to the next games in our group,” she said.
Joelle Bekhazi from Pointe-Claire, Que., who has been on the team since 2005, was behind Canada’s fourth goal.
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The Canadians had been training and competing internationally for the past three months to prepare, finishing fourth at the FINA World League Super Final in Greece.
Women’s water polo debuted at Olympics in 2000 in Sydney, where Canada recorded its best result of fifth place.
Canada will next play Spain on July 26. Only the top four teams in each of the two groups advance to the quarter-finals.