The United States has played the leading role in the history of Pan-American Games. That country has won 15 of the 16 editions of the most important sports event of the continent and its athletes have taken back home the impressive figure of 4,173 medals, 1,861 of which are golden. In over six decades of victories, handpicking only five names is quite a hard task, but Panamerican World has taken the challenge of making this Top 5 list of North American sports legends.
Abraham Grossfeld. Gymnastics
This gymnast ranks second on the historic list of top medalists, with 21 medals, only one less than another athlete: Cuban Erick Lopez.
Grossfeld competed in three Pan-American Games: Mexico, 1955, Chicago, 1959 and Sao Paulo, 1963. He won at least one medal in each of those editions, in different modes; although he shined on the horizontal bar as he won the three events.
Besides the eight titles in conventional modes [Floor Exercise (1), Rings (2), Horizontal Bar (3) and Team Competition (3)], Grossfeld also stood out in team competitions that are no longer included in the program, where he got another six crowns.
Grossfeld participated in two Olympic Games, Melbourne, 1956 and Rome, 1960. After his retirement, he became coach of the US Olympic team, for both women and men. With this responsibility he attended another five editions of the Games.
Lones Wigger. Shooting
Lones Wigger is a shooting legend in the United States. This retired Army Colonel competed in four Olympic events (1964, 1968, 1972 and 1980) where he won three medals (two gold medals and one silver). In Pan-American Games his enviable shooting skill caught everybody’s eye since Sao Paulo, in 1963, where he conquered his first title, as a member of the US team of small-bore carbine.
Throughout twenty years, Wigger shined in the Pan-American Games. He said goodbye in Caracas, 1983, when he was 46 years old. It was an impressive farewell as he added three gold medals to his record (he won with the large-bore carbine, 3×40 meters, individual and teams, and the team large-bore carbine). In six Pan-American incursions, Wigger collected 18 medals, 13 of which were gold.
Terry Schroeder. Water Polo
Terry Schroeder is a legend of water polo. His superb physique, which had him making headlines because of his 2-meter height, positioned him as the leader of his team, thus winning three Pan-American titles, between 1979 and 1987.
Throughout that time, the United States always defeated Cuba in the game for the crown. In the Havana edition, 1991, everybody was surprised as the Cuban team left behind the North American one in the last game and stopped Schroeder from winning his fourth gold medal.
This polo player also stood out in Olympic Games, where he got two silver medals, in Los Angeles, 1984, and Seoul, 1988. He later coached the national team for Beijing 2008, when he was defeated by Hungary. This athlete also participated in London, 2012.
In 1999, Terry Schroeder was included in the Water Polo Hall of Fame in the United States.
Dorothy Richardson. Softball
“Dot” Richardson is described as one of the best softball players of all times in the United States. With her country’s national team she won five medals in Pan-American Games, and she still stands as the athlete with the highest number of medals obtained in collective sports in the history of these sports events.
Richardson made her Pan-American debut in San Juan, 1979, where she won her first title. Four years later, in the duel for the gold, Canada defeated the United States; but, afterwards, the US team recovered control and Richardson added three new crowns to the list, in the editions of Indianapolis, 1987, Mar del Plata, 1995, and Winnipeg, 1999.
Richardson was also brilliant in the Olympic Games. When this sport made its debut, in Atlanta 1996, she batted a homerun in the decisive game, against China, which took her team to the victory. Richardson also competed in Sidney, where the United States held the crown.
Richardson was extolled in the Softball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Denise Parker. Archery
Denise Parker was described as the best archer of the United States over the last two decades of the 20th century. She made her international debut in Indianapolis Pan-American Games, 1987, when she was only 13 years old. That lefty girl surprised everybody as she won the individual event.
In her second Pan-American performance, in Havana, Denise — who was already an experienced archer with an Olympic medal won in Seoul, 1988 — prevailed in the individual competition and took the title back home. She also ranked 1st in 30, 60 and 70 meters (these modes are no longer included in the program of the Pan-American Games).
Parker was the Pan-American queen of archery until Winnipeg, 1999. In five editions of the Games, she conquered 15 medals: 12 gold medals, 2 silvers and 1 bronze. On the list of athletes with more Pan-American medals, Parker ranks second, right behind Joanne Malar.