The 17th Pan American Games will go down in history as one of the most hard-fought editions of all times, because of the tough and surprising fight between the United States and Canada in order to lead the medals table; while Brazil, Colombia and Cuba struggle for the third position. Moreover, the Toronto edition will be recalled due to the significant number of records established or the event—especially in swimming— and the outstanding performances of hundreds of athletes that, with their effort, won a position in the history of the main sports event of the continent. Who have been the most remarkable athletes to date? PanamericanWorld proposes a list of five figures that were on the podium in different moments.
Laura Zeng. United States
Every multiple Games has a queen and, in Toronto, the crown is undoubtedly deserved by US gymnast Laura Zeng, a young lady that is only 15 years old, 1.57 meters high, barely weighs 40 kilos and she won five medals.
Before the event, few people thought about Zeng as a favorite, because of her lack of competitive experience. The eyes seemed to be focused on US Jasmine Kerber, Canadian Patricia Bezzoubenko and Brazilian Angelica Kvieczynski; nevertheless, when it came to the crunch, Zeng dazzled both the jury and the many people that were witnessing her performance. She mastered the hoop, ball, ribbon, Indian club and multiple test.
After her brilliant performance in Toronto, this gymnast’s immediate plans include the world championship to take place in Germany, so she can sharpen her skills for her top goal: Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Thiago Pereira. Swimming
When Cuban gymnast Erick Lopez decided to retire in 2003, everybody thought that his record of 22 medals in Pan American Games would remain on record books forever, but Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira proved they were wrong.
Pereira made his debut in Pan American when he was 17 years old, right in the event where Lopez said goodbye. In Santo Domingo, the Brazilian athlete won his first two medals, both were bronze. Four years later, in Rio de Janeiro, his performance was great; he stood on the podium 8 times and conquered six gold medals. Afterwards, in Guadalajara, he prevailed once again, with eight medals, six of which were golden.
Pereira needed five medals in Toronto so as to break Lopez’s record. His efforts to reach the record drew attention on his results at the Canadian city and, just as expected, the Brazilian swimmer finally made it, perhaps not in the way he dreamed as he couldn’t swim in the final of 4×100 free style and 4×100 medley relay, but he added three gold medals to his remarkable career, along with one silver and one bronze, thus totaling 23.
“In Santo Domingo 2003, my first edition of the Pan Am Games, I never thought I would be living this, it just happened from one Olympic cycle to the next one. In 2015, 12 years after my first Pan Am Games, I did it,” Pereira told the press, and he presently stands out as the athlete with the highest number of medals won in the Games, although Lopez still heads the list of gold medals, with 18, and Pereira has 15.
Jossimar Calvo. Colombia
This gymnast also made history for his country, since he became the first Colombian athlete to win three gold medals in the same edition of the Pan American Games. 20-year-old Calvo won the medals in parallel bars, pommel horse and horizontal bar; he also got the bronze in the multiple competition.
In the parallels, Calvo scored 15,700 points, thus prevailing over Cuban Manrique Larduet and US Samuel Mikulak; in pommel horse he matched Marvin Kimble and left Mexican Daniel Corral behind; while in the horizontal bar he was better than Canadian Kevin Lytwyn and US Paul Ruggeri.
Ellie Black. Canada
If Laura Zeng was the queen of rhythmic gymnastics, Canadian Ellie Black shined in the artistic mode, since she obtained five medals, three of which were gold, one silver and one bronze.
20-year-old Black stood out in the competition as the top scorer, right in front of US Madison Desch and Brazilian Flavia Saraiva. Moreover, she got the highest position on the podium in free-hand exercises and on the beam. She ranked sixth as part of Canada’s team in the multiple competition and third in the pommel horse.
Jorge Garcia. Canoeing
Cuban canoeist Jorge Garcia showed in Toronto that he is one of the continent’s stars in this discipline. He won three medals in Guadalajara, two of which were golden, and four years later, in the Still Waters Central Pan Am Games held in Welland, he got three gold medals.
He first won on the K-4 at 1,000 meters, along with Alex Menendez, Renier Mora and Reinier Torres; he later shined in the individual event, also 1,000 meters, clocking 3:40.990 minutes, so he surpassed Argentinean Daniel Dalbo and Canadian Adam Van Koeverden, who had won the silver medal in London Olympics, in 2012.
Finally, Garcia joined Torres so as to conquer the gold on K-2 at 1000 meters, thus leaving the boats of Argentina and Brazil behind.