Team USA had unprecedented success at July’s Pan American Games and August’s Parapan American Games, both of which took place in Toronto. At the Pan Ams, Team USA won the overall medal count for the 16th consecutive time, a streak that dates back to 1955. Meanwhile, Team USA won a record 135 total medals at the Parapan Ams to finish third in the overall medal count. Here are some of Team USA’s highlights from Toronto.
Men's Gymnasts Back On Top
For the first time since 1995, the U.S. men’s gymnastics team won Pan Ams team gold, with Sam Mikulak becoming the first American to win the men’s all-around crown since 1987. Along with Mikulak, the U.S. men’s team was comprised of Marvin Kimble, Steven Legendre, Paul Ruggeri and Donnell Whittenburg.
Allison Schmitt’s Back In A Splash
In her first major international competition since 2012, Allison Schmitt swam to four medals, including three golds. She smashed a 36-year-old Pan American Games record en route to winning the 200-meter freestyle, and she was also a member of the teams that won the 4x100-meter medley and 4x200-meter freestyle.
Men's Water Polo Team Continues String Of Success
The U.S. men’s water polo team won its sixth straight Pan Ams title in Toronto by topping Brazil 11-9 in the final. For Team USA captain Tony Azevedo, it was his fifth consecutive Pan Ams gold medal, dating back to 1999. The team finished the tournament undefeated with wins over Ecuador, Cuba, Argentina, Canada and Brazil, and also qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the process.
Sobhy Squashes Her Competitors
Two months after graduating from Harvard, Amanda Sobhy won a tournament-record three gold medals at the Pan Ams. Less than 24 hours after winning singles gold over fellow American Olivia Blatchford, she partnered with Natalie Grainger to win the women’s doubles title and then capped off a record week by helping Team USA defeat Canada to win the team gold medal. The U.S. squash team finished with six medals overall, its most ever at the Games.
Kim Rhode Ties A World Record
After being voted by fellow Team USA members as the U.S. flag bearer for the Pan Ams Opening Ceremony, Kim Rhode became the only athlete to either set or tie a world record at the Games, as she defended her title in women’s skeet shooting. In the qualification rounds, she hit 74 of 75 targets to tie the world record and set a new Pan Ams record before going on to earn her fifth Pan Ams medal.
First Individuals Qualify For Rio
Modern pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher became the first athlete to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team by virtue of his top-three finish in Toronto. In addition to Schrimsher and the women’s field hockey team, the men’s water polo team, equestrian eventing and dressage teams, and table tennis player Yue “Jennifer” Wu earned spots in Rio. U.S. shooting athletes also earned five total quota spots for Rio 2016, while U.S. canoe/kayak slalom athletes secured quota spots at the Games.
Laura Zeng's Rhythmic Domination
Laura Zeng, a rhythmic gymnastics bronze medalist at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, was the most-decorated athlete at the Pan Ams, earning five gold medals and becoming the second woman to ever sweep the individual rhythmic gymnastics titles. The U.S. rhythmic contingent won 13 medals in total, with Jazzy Kerber winning four silvers and a bronze to Zeng's sweep, and the U.S. rhythmic group medaling in all three of its events, including a first-ever gold. The group included Kiana Eide, Alisa Kano, Natalie McGiffert, Monica Rokhman, Jenny Rokhman and Kristen Shaldybin.
Shields Leads The Way In More Ways Than One
Middleweight boxer Claressa Shields became the first American to win a medal of any color in women’s boxing at the Pan Am Games. Shields, who also won a gold medal in the debut of Olympic women’s boxing in 2012, went undefeated in Toronto to claim gold, and afterwards was chosen by a vote from fellow Team USA members as the Games’ Closing Ceremony flag bearer.
Cam F. Awesome Shakes It Off
After losing his Pan Ams semifinal in Toronto, super heavyweight boxer Cam F. Awesome, once known as Lenroy Cameron Thompson Jr., became famous for his quote that lit up social media: “I’m not saying I’m the Taylor Swift of boxing, but I’m not not saying that I’m the Taylor Swift of boxing.” His post-fight interview went viral online, winning over fans. And despite not reaching the gold-medal bout, he still came home with a bronze medal.
American Women Make A Statement
The American women dominated in the team sports at the Pan Ams, winning four gold medals. Team USA won the inaugural Pan Ams title in women’s baseball on the final day of competition, while the U.S. women’s indoor volleyball squad won its first gold medal at the Games in 48 years. Additionally, the women’s field hockey and water polo teams both defended their titles from 2011. The field hockey team punched its ticket to the Rio 2016 Games with a semifinal win over Canada, since gold-medal match opponent, Argentina, had already qualified for the Games through its finish at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinal.
Fear Berenyi's Beard
Cyclist Joe Berenyi, often referenced as “that champion with one arm and a crazy beard,” won four medals, including three golds, at the Parapan Ams. Earlier this month, he was voted the Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year at the Team USA Awards presented by Dow in Philadelphia.
Wallace And Townsend Smash World Records
Jarryd Wallace became the fastest amputee sprinter in the world, breaking the 100-meter T44 world record with a time of 10.71. The win was especially significant for Wallace, who defended his gold medal from the 2011 Parapan Ams, an event that served as the breakout moment of his career. (American teammate Richard Browne went on to surpass Wallace’s world record two months later by just a tenth of a second at the IPC Athletics World Championships.) Also on the Toronto track, Roderick Townsend, in his rookie season in Paralympic sport, shattered his own world record by five centimeters in the high jump T47 with a leap of 2.12 meters.
Wheelchair Rugby Lures International Following
The much-hyped USA vs. Canada wheelchair rugby rivalry took center stage at the Parapan Ams, with the two nations facing off twice in front of packed arenas and fans watching around the globe. In their first-round game, Team USA took a thrilling 60-59 victory in double-overtime to finish preliminary play with a perfect 5-0 record. But in the final, Canada got the better of Team USA, leaving the Americans to settle for silver after a 57-54 loss.
Men's Sitting Volleyball Back In The Paralympics
After more than a decade of watching the Paralympic Games from the sidelines, the U.S. men’s sitting volleyball team punched its ticket to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by finishing in silver-medal position in Toronto. The U.S. program failed to qualify for the 2008 or 2012 Paralympic Games, and was last seen at the Athens 2004 Games.
Clean Sweep In Wheelchair Basketball
In Toronto, the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team went undefeated to claim gold, winning its games by an average of 55 points and defeating reigning world champions Canada to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Rose Hollermann posted 37 points for the Americans in the final. The men’s wheelchair basketball team also qualified for a spot in Rio with a dominating 59-36 victory over Argentina in the semifinal before going on to defeat Canada 62-39 in the final.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.