Thomas Hall, a McGill University physical education student from Pointe Claire, Que., won a bronze medal in the single men's canoe race at the Beijing Games on Friday.
He finished third in the 1,000-metre event — known as the “C-1, 1000m” — clocking in at three minutes 53.65 seconds.
Hall is the first McGill student to win a medal at the Summer Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta when rowers Alison Korn and Tosha Tsang earned silver with the Canadian women’s heavyweight eight. The last McGill male to win a medal was swimmer Robert Kasting, who garnered bronze at the 1972 Munich Games.
Over the past century, 106 McGill students have won a combined total of 25 Olympic medals, including five gold, eight silver and 12 bronze.
Hall had a slow start in the race and was fifth in the nine-man field at the halfway point and moved up to fourth with 250 metres to go before a final push allowed him to reach the podium.
Known for his strong finishes, Hall told CBC television he gave everything he had and wasn’t sure he had enough steam to even move after the race.
“I was obviously ecstatic for about 30 seconds and then close to (knocked) out cold,” Hall said. “That’s one of the first races where I’ve had literally almost nothing left (at the end). I almost didn’t think I was going to make it to the dock, which was about 50 metres away.”
Attila Sandor Vajda of Hungary won gold in 3:50.467. David Cal of Spain, who won gold four years ago in Athens, took silver in 3:52.751.
Hall was considered a long shot for the Beijing Olympic team in the C-1 1,000m until some surprising World Cup results earlier this season. He won gold at the Pan American Championships and had two victories on the World Cup circuit, in Poland and Germany.
Hall, who suspended his studies last year to train for a possible berth at the Olympics, indicated that he is going to take a break before returning to school. A graduate of John Abbott College, he has completed the equivalent of two years towards a degree in physical education and kinesiology at McGill.