Halfway through the gruelling women’s 500-metre canoe double sprint, it didn’t look good for Canadians Laurence Vincent Lapointe and partner Katie Vincent.
On yet another muggy and stifling day in Tokyo, the duo sat in fifth place with only 250 metres ahead of them.
That’s when they found magic on the water and secured Canada’s 23rd medal at the Tokyo Olympics — a record for the country in the summer outside of the boycotted 1984 Games.
Vincent Lapointe and Vincent bore down, paddled hard and started to charge.
WATCH | Vincent Lapointe, Vincent earn bronze medal:
In the closing metres, with their Canadian coaches and support staff yelling and screaming encouragement, they surged past the Germans and Hungarians.
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They stopped the clock at 1:59.041, enough to win bronze for Canada.
“I knew we had a job to finish today. Now we have nothing else and we’re going to celebrate for sure,” Vincent Lapointe said.
The women’s canoe sprint events were debuting at the Games.
China won gold in 1:55.495, while Ukraine took silver in 1:57.499.
Exhausted, relieved and overwhelmed in the moments immediately following the race, Vincent Lapointe and Vincent went to grab one another’s hands — and both fell into the water in a joyous scene.
“It’s hard to describe right now. It’s still pretty surreal. Everything that’s happened the past few years, it’s been crazy. To finish it off in true Canadian fashion, walking away we’ll be very proud of this moment,” Vincent said.
For Vincent, from Mississauga, Ont., it’s her first Olympic medal.
“I hope everyone at home is enjoying this as much as we are. We’re pretty excited to get home and celebrate with everyone who helped us along the way,” she said.
Vincent Lapointe, a 29-year-old from Trois-Rivières, Que., won her second medal of the Games after securing silver in the C1 200-metre event days earlier.
“I want to thank everyone for believing in us and supporting us. We made it to the end and I’m proud,” she said.
WATCH | Canadians take their spot on the podium:
They weren’t sure they’d be in world-class form. But they found it when they needed it most.
“Our love for the sport kept bringing us back. To go home with a medal, I can’t be happier for myself and the whole community,” Vincent, 25, said.
“We love canoeing. I love doing this. It’s motivating for me. Go for a paddle. Think of us. Because I’m taking the day off tomorrow.”
A driving rain had poured down at the Sea Forest Waterway on Saturday morning before the race. But just minutes before the historic final, the sky cleared and the wind calmed.
It stopped just long enough for the Canadians to paddle to bronze, get their medals and celebrate the moment. As soon as their podium moment finished, the rain started to fall again.
There were some tense minutes after the race for the Canadians. Germany, which finished fourth, protested the race, saying Canada had committed a lane violation.
The International Canoe Federation denied the protest almost immediately.