Canada's Philibert-Thiboutot upgraded to silver in tightly contested 5K at Pan Am Games

Canada's Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, second from left, raced to silver in the men's 5,000 metres at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday in Santiago, Chile. (Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press - image credit)
Canada's Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, second from left, raced to silver in the men's 5,000 metres at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday in Santiago, Chile. (Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press - image credit)

Canada's Charles Philibert-Thiboutot on the Pan Am Games podium — and a step higher than last time.

The 32-year-old raced to silver in the men's 5,000 metres at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday in Santiago, Chile, improving on his bronze from eight years ago in the 1,500 in Toronto.

Philibert-Thiboutot, of Quebec City, crossed posted a time of 14 minutes 48.02 seconds, well off his personal best of 13:12.76 set last May. The Olympic qualifying standard for Paris is 13:05.

That was originally good for third place, while Mexico's Fernando Martinez crossed first at 14:47.68 and American Kasey Knevelbaard trailed by just one-one hundredth of a second to score silver.

But video showed Martinez attempting to block out Knevelbaard with his arm as the American sprinted to the finish line, leading to disqualification for the Mexican.

Brazil's Altobeli Da Silva, whose time of 14:48.18 left him just behind Philibert-Thiboutot, was upgraded to bronze as a result, while the Canadian snagged silver.

After his career was nearly derailed by injury, Philibert-Thiboutot said there were some dark moments. Now, he's a silver medallist at the Pan Am Games.

"Sometimes I had to think about moments like these that I'm living right now to remember why I'm in this," he told CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo. "And all the work is worth it at the end of the day when you get a medal like this on the international stage. And it feels incredible to be healthy and to be competitive."

The race, led most of the way by American Emmanuel Bor, who wound up sixth, maintained a slow pace through the first 10-plus minutes, with Philibert-Thiboutot comfortably lingering in third.

"I did have a plan coming in, which was to secure myself within the top three throughout the whole race and defend that position whether there are surges or not, which I think I did," he said.

But the jog truly became a race over the final two laps, with competitors at the back of the pack making their move to the podium.

Philibert-Thiboutot, however, kept up his pace, fending off opponents trying to pass him on the outside lanes. In the end, the Canadian — competing in just his fourth 5,000 of the season — was able to stave away Da Silva to secure silver.

"It was a blistering last 400 which played to my strengths. ... And I feel like my tactics were good, I was in good position throughout, and just missed a little bit, forgot to get gold at the end unfortunately."

Philibert-Thiboutot will also race in the 1,500 on Thursday — his stronger distance, and one in which he's already met the Olympic qualifying standard.

Live action from the Pan Am Games continues on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.