Toronto Pan Am Games have been a platform for young stars to show the world what they can do. Many of them are not older than 22, but in the most important sports event of the continent they have competed as veterans and written their names in the history of nearly seven decades of the Games. PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to five figures that stood out at the Canadian city. We shouldn’t be surprised if, within a year, these athletes also stand on the podium of the Olympic Games to be organized by Rio de Janeiro.
Laura Zeng (15 years old)
This 15-year-old US athlete became queen of the Pan Am Games by winning five gold medals. Her Pan Am reign began with the victory in the competition of top scorers, where she got the highest numbers in three out of the four apparatus of the event. Her winning streak continued with victories in the hoop and ball sections. At the top of her flawless performance, Zeng won the gold in ribbon and clubs. Her young teammate, 18-year-old Jasmine Kerber, had great results too, but she couldn’t surpass Zeng and she won four silver medals and one bronze.
Kaylin Whitney (17 years old)
The Unites States had never had such a young and brilliant sprinter since the time of Marion Jones. 17-year-old Kaylin Whitney has everything it takes to shine in athletics and she showed her talent in Toronto.
The name of this runner has resounded since she was 16. She established junior world records at that age, in 100 and 200 meter dash. Nike signed her up and she has even competed in the circuit of IAAF’s Diamond League. In this edition of the Pan Am Games, Whitney stood out since the qualifying stage, when she prevailed over Jamaican Kerron Stewart, a three-time Olympic medalist.
Later on, in the final, Whitney met forecasts and ran for the gold with 22.65 seconds, right in front of another promising athlete: her compatriot Kyra Jefferson.
Ellie Black (19 years old)
Ellie Black, 19 years old, was the queen in artistic gymnastics as she won three gold and one silver medals, as well as one bronze. This girl, who was born in Halifax, became the first Canadian athlete in 36 years —since Monica Goermann — and the first non-US gymnast since 1983 to win the competition as the top scorer, with 58,150 points, thus surpassing US Madison Desch.
Furthermore, Black triumphed in free hand exercises and the beam. She ranked second as part of Canada’s team in the multiple competition and third in pommel horse.
Amanda Sohby (22 years old)
US Amanda Sohby, 22 years old, totally dominated her squash rivals. This athlete, junior world champion in 2010 and current number 10 in the world ranking, had no problem to defeat her compatriot Olivia Blatchford in the singles final, in barely three sets of 16 minutes.
Afterwards, in the doubles tournament she joined Natalie Grainger to fight for the gold against Canadians Sam Cornett and Nikole Todd. Finally, Sohby got her third gold as a member of the US team that won the team competition.
Chantal van Landeghem (21 years old)
This Canadian swimmer, 21 years old, surprised everybody in the Pan Am Games by winning 100 m freestyle, thus leaving behind the great favorite, US veteran Natalie Coughlin, 12-time Olympic medalist.
Coughlin led most of the competition, but at the end, van Landeghem was stronger and clocked 53.83 seconds, a new Pan American record. The struggle between these two swimmers took place again in 4×100 m freestyle relay. They were the last competitors of the US and Canadian teams. It was a photo finish and van Landeghem prevailed, so her team established a Pan Am record with 3:36.80.
Moreover, van Landeghem finished second in 4×100 m medley relay. Emily Overholt, 17 years old, is another young Canadian swimmer that shined in Toronto. She won 400 m freestyle, with Pan American record of 4:08.42; finished second in 200 m freestyle, right after US Allison Schmitt, and third in 4×200 m free style relay.