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Canada wins first gold at Pan Am Games

Ivett Gonda’s golden day started with the easiest of victories.

The Canadian got word on the bus ride to the taekwondo venue that her first-round opponent at the Pan American Games didn’t make weight and would not compete. Needing just one victory to guarantee a spot in an Olympic qualifying event next month, the walkover win immediately relieved the pressure.

Gonda appeared relaxed and confident when she finally got on the mat. Three matches later. she had the biggest victory of her career.

Gonda captured Canada’s first gold medal at the Games with a 13-6 win over Lizbeth Julissa Diez Canseco of Peru at the Code II Gymnasium. The Port Moody, B.C., fighter outscored her opponent 8-1 in the final round, sealing the win with a spinning roundhouse kick to the head.

There was an electric atmosphere in the 2,100-seat venue at the start of Gonda’s quarter-final bout against Carolena Carstens of Panama. Mexico’s Damian Villa — who won silver in the men’s 58-kilogram category — was wrapping up a victory on the next mat.

The energetic Mexican crowd let out a roar when Villa completed the win before turning their attention to Gonda’s bout. She had little trouble with Carstens, recording a comfortable 11-4 win.

After a break of a few hours, Gonda returned and posted an 8-3 semifinal victory over American Deiranne Estephany Morales before taking the gold in the final match of the day.

The stands were near capacity for both sessions. Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa was in attendance for the early matches.

Yulis Gabriel Mercedes Reyes of the Dominican Republic beat Villa for the men’s gold. Earlier, Mercedes Reyes defeated Jocelyn Addison of Montreal 7-1 in a quarter-final bout.

Gonda, 25, was born in Hungary and moved to Canada at age four. The two-time Olympian has won several international events and captured bronze at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio.

Her next big goal is next year’s Summer Games in London, something she thinks would be a bonus given her list of accomplishments.

“I’m more than thrilled at where my career is at,” Gonda said after the early session. “I can walk away today and just be happy with where I am. So to me, it’s just letting myself be out there and just taking the moment in.”