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Canada posts 2nd lopsided win before crucial women’s water polo match at aquatics worlds

It’s safe to say the Canadian women’s water polo team is no longer flying under the radar in Doha, Qatar.

The group of 15 prepared for Thursday’s critical match against Italy at the World Aquatics Championships with a 20-5 drubbing of Great Britain on Tuesday.

“Some people believe that as Canadians we’re not the most strong-willed,” team captain Emma Wright told CBC Sports before this tournament, the third and final qualifier for the Paris Olympics this summer.

“People underestimate us as a team because we’re Canadian and we hope to use that to our advantage.”

Canada also cruised to a 24-2 victory over South Africa to open the tourney on Sunday.

Élyse Lemay-Lavoie was among a trio Canadians to score five goals and added four on Tuesday to secure player of the game honours.

Canada leads Group D over Italy, also 2-0, based on goal differential (37-34). In their most recent meeting, the Italians prevailed 13-12 in a friendly last April.

The Italians are one of the teams, along with Hungary, expected to provide the stiffest test for the Canadians in their pursuit of an Olympic berth. Thursday’s game is scheduled for 4 a.m. ET and will be live streamed on CBCSports.ca, CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.

The top team in each of the four groups advances to the Feb. 12 quarterfinals, while the runner-up must win a one-game playoff to move on.

WATCH | Canada vs. Great Britain at World Aquatics Championships:

2024 World Aquatic Championships Doha: Women’s water polo Canada vs. Great Britain

Watch Canada take on Great Britain in women’s water polo group stage action from the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha.

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For the second straight game in Doha, Canada scored six times in the opening quarter on Tuesday.

It held a 5-2 advantage in the second to take an 11-3 lead into halftime.

‘Everyone played together’

Great Britain managed to hold its opponent scoreless for over five minutes in the third quarter, but Canada scored three goals in quick fashion and breezed to victory.

“Everyone played together and everyone touched the ball, so it was really good,” said Blaire McDowell, who scored twice along with Axelle Crevier, Kindred Paul, Marilia Mimides and Wright.

Shae La Roche had a hat trick while Daphné Guèvremont, Verica Bakoc and Serena Browne also scored.

“Great Britain was doing a really good job diving and … we had to be disciplined in our defence and capitalize on the opportunities we [had].”

Canada scored on 20 of its 32 shots for a 62.5 per cent success rate compared to 25 per cent (5-for-25) for the Brits.

The Canadians also outblocked their opponent 6-3 and had five fewer turnovers.

“It was definitely a tough match for us,” said Great Britain’s Toula Falvey, who led her team with two goals. “We set some goals and wanted to reach that; definitely some things we can take from this game into the next.

“We have to learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Great Britain faces South Africa on Thursday in a battle of winless squads.

Finlin secures Olympic spot in open water

Emma Finlin officially has a spot on the Canadian Olympic team for Paris after a reallocation of unused quota spots in the women’s 10-kilometre open water event.

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Finlin, 18, missed earning Canada the continental qualifying spot for the Americas in Saturday’s race, finishing 24th, 0.7 seconds and one spot behind Martha Sandoval of Mexico.

However, World Aquatics announced Tuesday that Canada would receive the unallocated spot for Oceania, which had no competing athletes outside the two Australians already qualified.

Swimming Canada will nominate Finlin to represent her country in France.

“It doesn’t feel real right now,” said Finlin, who has had an emotional few days.

Swimming Canada high performance director John Atkinson noted Finlin, a member of Edmonton Keyano Swim Club, has “shown great improvement from her 30th-place position at the world championships last year.”

Action continues Wednesday with the 5 km races. Finlin and Laila Oravsky of the Barrie (Ont.) Trojans start at 2:30 a.m. ET.

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