Three victories by Peru and two each by Chile, Colombia and the Dominican Republic highlighted the first few days of athletics at the 19th Pan American Games, held for the first time in Chile.
In the most successful campaign for Peruvian athletics at this quadrennial multi-sport event, the hosts of the 2019 Games got off to a good start as Cristian Simeon Pacheco became the first man to successfully defend his marathon title.
Pacheco, who set a Peruvian record at the 2019 edition, ran the second half more than four minutes faster than the first to win gold in 2:11:14, 53 seconds ahead of Hugo Edgardo Catrileo, who won Chile’s first medal in the men’s marathon history of the games.
Pacheco’s compatriot, defending champion Gladys Tejeda, finished third in the women’s marathon in 2:30:39, behind Mexican winner Chitlali Moscote (2:27:12) and Argentina’s Florencia Borrelli (2:27:29). They all dipped below the previous Games record set by Tejeda in Lima in 2019.
When action resumed a week later, 2022 world champion Kimberly Garcia added Pan Am gold to her pedigree in the women’s 20km race walking, finishing one place better than her performance in 2019. Garcia won after a close battle with area record holder Glenda Morejon of Ecuador on a course that later proved short.
David Hurtado of Ecuador won the men’s 20km race walk (1:19:20). Two-time world bronze medalist Caio Bonfim of Brazil (1:19:24) and Andres Eduardo Olivas of Mexico (1:19:56) rounded out the podium, all finishing within the previous Games record.
David Hurtado wins the men’s 20km race walk at the Pan American Games (© AFP / Getty Images)
When the action moved to the National Stadium on Monday (30), Luz Mary Rojas produced another historic performance in the 10,000m, becoming the first Peruvian athlete – male or female – to win track gold in the history of the Pan American Games.
With the experience of the 2023 World Championship final behind her, the 30-year-old pulled away from the lead group with six laps remaining. She kept her pursuers at bay and raised her arms in the air as she crossed the finish line in 33:12.99, beating world 5,000m finalist Laura Galvan of Mexico (33:15.85) and Edna Kurgat of the United States (33:16.61).
Hosts Chile are enjoying their best performances in Pan American Games history. Lucas Nervi threw a season’s best of 63.39m in the third round to win the men’s discus title ahead of South American record holder Mauricio Ortega of Colombia (61.86m) and Jamaica’s two-time defending champion and world silver medalist from 2019 Fedric Dacres (61.25 m) ).
The momentum continued a day later on Tuesday (31) when Santiago Ford delighted a crowd of over 30,000 with gold in the decathlon. Second after the first day, the silver medalist of the South American championships improved his best in the discus throw by almost two and a half meters. A solid performance at Javelin cemented his lead and he held off his nearest rivals – South American champion Brazilian Fernando Ferreira and American Ryan Talbot – at close range over 1500m to become the second Chilean after 1951 champion Hernán Figueroa to win the desired continental decathlon. His final score was 7834 points.
After a busy season, 400m world champion Marilady Paulino finished strongly to confirm the Dominican Republic as the first winner of the 4x400m medley at the Pan American Games. Running the main leg, she was preceded by Ezequiel Suarez, her fellow Olympic relay silver medalist and training partner Annabelle Medina and Robert King.
Paulino will return to the track on Wednesday to compete in the 200 meters.
The Dominican Republic, led by Marilady Paulino, and Brazil compete in the 4x400m medley (© AFP / Getty Images)
A second gold for the Caribbean nation came a day later in the men’s 100m, with Jose Alnardo Gonzalez becoming his country’s first champion in the event at the Games. The 28-year-old national record holder finished strongly in lane six to run 10.30 to see off Brazil’s national record holder Felipe Bardi and Guyana’s Emmanuel Archibald, both clocking 10.31.
In a wide-open women’s 100m final, national record holder Uniladys De La Caridad Garcia pulled away from the field at the halfway point to become Cuba’s second woman to win gold on the continent and the first in 20 years. She clocked 11.36, finishing comfortably ahead of Jasmine Abrams of Guyana (11.52) and Michelle-Lee Aye of Trinidad and Tobago (11.53).
Archibald and Abrams won Guyana’s first medals at the 2023 Games in all sports, their country’s first medals in athletics in 20 years and the fourth and fifth in Games history.
Colombia dominated both events in the long jump, with world under-20 silver medalist Natalia Linares (6.66m) and two-time South American champion Arnovis Dalmero (8.08m) taking the honours.
In her third Pan American Games, Brazil’s Eliane Martins, 37, finally collected a medal with an opening 6.49m, her only valid jump of the competition. In the men’s event, Cuban duo Alejandro Parada and Mikel Vidal joined Dalmero on the podium with 8.01m to deny Uruguay’s Emiliano Lassa (8.00m) a third straight Pan Am medal after his bronze in Toronto 2015 and Lima in 2019
Isabella Rodriguez threw 59.63m to win the women’s discus in Brazil 1-2 ahead of compatriot Andressa De Morais (59.29m).
The athletics competitions in Santiago de Chile continue until November 4. Canada’s Ethan Katzberg is among the athletes still to compete as the world champion takes on defending champion Gabriel Kerr of Chile. The medley marathon walking relay, a new Olympic discipline, will make its debut at the Games on the final day.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for World Athletics