By Jordan Klein | Aug. 07, 2019, 1:42 a.m. (ET)

Reggie Jagers throws discus at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 6, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

Reggie Jagers III was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his competitors before a near-capacity crowd in Lima, Peru, waiting for the men’s discus final to begin. As his name was called and his likeness flashed upon the stadium’s two videoboards, Jagers dramatically unzipped his track jacket to reveal the “USA” logo on his undershirt, nodding with a smile toward the camera.

It was an homage to Superman, that moment when Clark Kent unbuttons his collared shirt as he runs through an alleyway, revealing the infamous “S” before he flies up, up and away. Little did many in the crowd know how difficult Jagers’ road to the Pan American Games really was and how much superhuman weight he carried on his shoulders.

In a dazzling display of power and grace, Jagers earned Team USA’s first medal in track and field at the Pan American Games Lima 2019, claiming a bronze in discus. Teammate Keturah Orji later secured the silver medal in long jump to conclude the first evening of track and field competition in Lima.

“Going into a high-pressure championship like this one, I’m super grateful and super appreciate,” Jagers said of his bronze-medal finish. “It’s been a battle, but God has made me resilient.”

The battle Jagers was referring to began last year. Midway through the track and field season, his father, Reginald Jagers II, passed away. Then came a nagging groin injury. At the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Jagers notched the worst national championship finish of his career. He didn’t make the world team.

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When asked who or what kept him going through the most difficult days, Jagers didn’t hesitate.

“My family, my mom. She’s been an absolute rock for me.”

Bolstered by his family’s support, Jagers shone on the Pan American stage. Despite several fouls, his throw of 64.48 meters earned him a place on the podium behind Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle. Draping himself in the American flag, Jagers savored his victory lap, a moment he considered an early gift prior to his birthday on Aug. 13.

He’s planning on traveling home after the Pan American Games, taking time to mourn his father’s passing, something he admits he hasn’t had the opportunity to do given the pace of the track and field season.

“I actually get to grieve for my father’s passing. I read somewhere that when you’re in the public eye as an athlete, you can’t really grieve at the time. So, now I get to go home, see my family and just come back stronger next year.”

Orji will also be traveling home after the Games. Catching a flight to New Jersey, she’ll have a Pan American Games silver medal to share with her family. The 2016 Olympian jumped 6.66 meters in her fourth attempt to secure the silver, finishing just behind Chantel Malone of the British Virgin Islands. 

“I’m just really happy and really excited,” Orji said. “Long jump isn’t my primary event. I’m more of a triple jumper as most people know. And it was pretty cold, so I was unsure about how I would do. But, I’m really happy to come out with the silver medal.”

Competing at an event like the Pan American Games brought back memories for Orji. The dining hall, the Pan American village, the fanfare, it all reminds her of her experience in Rio, when she placed fourth in triple jump at the Olympic Games. She’s using her time in Lima to jumpstart her momentum toward Tokyo 2020.

“I’ve had a really consistent season, and I just want to be able to build on that,” Orji said. “Especially with the [IAAF World Championships in] Doha coming up and the Olympics, I’m trying to keep getting better.”

Track and field events continue tomorrow, as Team USA athletes compete in the finals for men’s long jump, women’s 100-meter, men’s 100, men’s shot put and the decathlon.