Athletics takes Pan Am spotlight but 100 metres left in shadows

SANTIAGO: Athletics moved into the Pan American Games spotlight yesterday but the marquee 100 metres was left in the shadows, with the region's top sprinters giving the event a miss and leaving the stage to unknowns.

While there has been a lack of quality and depth across many of the sports in Santiago, it was never more glaring than at the first day of athletics.

The Pan Am Games have never been a magnet for the region's sprinting best although the list of winners includes some big names like Americans Carl Lewis (4x100m relay) and Gail Devers and Jamaicans Don Quarrie and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce.

No one close to that pedigree were in the starting blocks yesterday.

The 100m is widely considered the showcase event at any athletics meeting but sprinkled throughout the semi-final heats there were just three men - Colombian Ronal Longa (9.99), Brazilians Felipe Bardi (9.96) and Erik Barbosa (9.97) - who clocked personal bests under 10 seconds.

At the National Stadium, the Dominican Republic's Jose Gonzalez was the top qualifier for today's final in a pedestrian 10.30 seconds.

The Pan American region has for decades produced some of the world's greatest sprinters, including Usain Bolt.

But the current crop of speedsters, including newly crowned American 100m world champions Noah Lyles and Sha'Carri all gave the Pan Ams a pass.

Brazil's Izabela Rodrigues claimed the first gold of the athletics competition winning the women's discus while the women's long jump title went to Colombia's Natalia Linares.

Chile's Lucas Nervi delighted a small but supportive opening day home crowd, taking top spot on the podium in the men's discus.

Peru's Luz Mery Rojas won the women's 10,000m while the Dominican Republic closed out Day One action with a victory in the 4x400m mixed relay.

On the coast the surfing podium was dominated by the U.S. and Peru each taking three gold.

In the short board Olympic event, Brazil's Tatiana Weston Webb edged Canada's Sanoa Dempfle-Olin for the gold and Peru's Lucca Mesinas beat Venezuela's Francisco in the men's final.

As bonus, both Dempfle-Olin and Mesinas qualified for spots at the Paris Olympics. Weston Webb had already secured her spot so it went to the 18-year-old Canadian.

"I feel happy, for the medal for my country, which is the most important thing, along with qualification," said Mesinas. "I'm happy to claim my spot because I want to be at the Olympics, represent Peru and fulfil the dream of winning an Olympic medal."

Along with athletics the first medals were also awarded in fencing and table tennis.

Canada's Dylan French beat Chile's Pablo Nunez to win the men's epee title while Lee Kiefer of the United States defeated Canada's Grace Harvey to take gold in the women's foil.

The Cuban partnership of Daniela Fonseca and Jorge Campos beat Brazil's Bruna Takahashi and Vitor Ishiy to claim the table tennis mixed doubles gold.

The United States continues to hold a runaway lead at the top of the medal table with 72 gold and 171 total medals followed by Brazil on 37/123 and Canada 35/105.--REUTERS

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories