Every four years athletes from different countries come together to compete in sports such as gymnasts, track and field, and … water skiing.
The Pan American Games are a quadrennial competition, much like the Olympic Games, except they feature athletes only from the Americas and more sports than are on the Olympic program. And just how the Paralympic Games following each Olympic Games, the Parapan American Games follow the Pan American Games.
Team USA had performances to remember in each, with the Pan Am Games taking place July 26-Aug. 11, and the Parapan Am Games following from Aug. 12-Sept. 1, both in Lima, Peru.
No country won more than the U.S. 120 gold and 293 total medals at the Pan Am Games, while the U.S. was second in the Parapan Am Games with 58 gold and 185 total medals. Among those results were no shortage of memorable performances from athletes ranging from six-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode and five-time Olympic swimming champ Nathan Adrian to several who are aiming to make their Olympic and Paralympic debuts next summer in Tokyo.
Here’s a look at the best of the Pan Am and Parapan American Games:
Nathan Adrian Returns From Testicular Cancer
Returning from surgeries and treatment for testicular cancer earlier in the year, three-time Olympian Nathan Adrian delivered a remarkable performance at the Pan American Games. Adrian, an eight-time Olympic medalist, began his mission by anchoring the U.S. men’s 4x100-meter freestyle team to a silver medal. He wound up with five medals in Lima, two of them gold, in his second international competition since his cancer diagnosis (the world championships was his first). “While I dream, live, eat and sleep winning medals, at the end of the day there are other things that are equally as important or more important in my life,” Adrian said.
Brady Ellison Breaks Archery World Record
Brady Ellison, a three-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist in archery, wasted little time in hitting his mark in the men’s recurve competition. Ellison broke a world record on the opening day of archery, scoring 702 out of a possible 720 in the qualifying round. He went on to win two medals: a gold in mixed team recurve and a bronze in men’s team recurve. Ellison then served as flag bearer for Team USA at the Closing Ceremony.
Men’s Water Polo Wins Gold, Secures Tokyo 2020 Spot
Alex Bowen scored five goals, leading the U.S. men’s water polo team to an 18-6 victory over Canada in the gold-medal match, which in the process secured Team USA’s spot in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Cheering the men on were members of the U.S. women’s water polo team, who had won their own gold medals earlier in the day (and had previously qualified for Tokyo). The men’s victory clinched their seventh consecutive Pan Am Games championship.
Softball Women Top Canada For Gold
The U.S. women’s softball team struck back against Canada at precisely the perfect time in Lima. After losing to Canada in the semifinals but earning a gold-medal game rematch via a bronze-medal game win over Puerto Rico, Team USA defeated Canada 3-1 in the championship game to win back the gold medal Canada had captured four years ago. Monica Abbott, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, gave up just one run and four hits, and Michelle Moultrie delivered two hits, including a home run. The gold medal was the ninth for the U.S. in softball, and it was the fifth time the women had defeated Canada in the title game. “It’s great to win gold for USA,” Moultrie said.
Kim Rhode Captures Another Pan Am Gold
Kim Rhode, who is the only female athlete to medal at six consecutive Olympic Games, won her sixth consecutive Pan Am Games medal, four of which are now in skeet. She hit 55 of 60 targets and teared up on the podium as the national anthem played. Rhode is looking to make her seventh U.S. Olympic team in 2020.
Evita Griskenas Wins 5 Individual Medals
U.S. rhythmic gymnast Evita Griskenas didn’t have just one big moment in Lima. She had five of them. Griskenas won four individual gold medals and one individual bronze medal, capturing more individual medals than any other athlete in any sport from any nation at the Games. Griskenas won gold medals in the women’s all-around, ribbon, ball and hoop, while taking bronze in clubs. Griskenas, who was 18 years old at the time of the competition, was named the winner of the NextGen (Under-20) Female Athlete Award at the inaugural Panam Sports Awards in December.
Lee Kiefer Captures Gold Twice In Women’s Foil
Two-time Olympian Lee Kiefer made history in the women’s foil individual tournament, winning her third Pan Am Games gold medal with a 15-10 victory over Canada’s Jessica Zi Jia Guo in the championship match. She was the first fencer, male or female regardless of discipline, to win three golds at the Pan Am Games. Kiefer added another gold medal in the team event.
Burrows, Haldeman On Target For Men’s Trap
Brian Burrows and Derek Haldeman blazed a path for U.S. men’s trap shooters into the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with medal-winning performances in Lima. Burrows and Haldeman finished one-two, winning gold and silver, respectively, and securing two Olympic quota spots in an event the U.S. did not earn any spots for the last two Olympic Games. Burrows hit every target in the final round to win the gold medal and his total score of 43 hit targets set a Pan Am Games record. Both shooters also medaled in the mixed team competition. Haldeman won a gold medal with Ashley Carroll and Burrows won a silver medal with Rachel Tozier.
Achterberg, Elgeziry Qualify For Olympic Team
Samantha Achterberg charged ahead from 17th place after the fencing competition and onto the podium with a silver medal, becoming the first pentathlete to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team. She’ll make her Olympic debut next year in Tokyo. Joining her will be Amro Elgeziry, a three-time Olympian for his native Egypt. He will compete in Tokyo for the U.S. after finishing fifth in the men’s competition in Lima. Elgeziry is married to 2016 U.S. Olympian Isabella Isaksen. Achterberg moved from eighth place to second place in the laser run, an event combining shooting and running. Achterberg told TeamUSA.org she was telling herself: “This is for the Olympics. This is for Tokyo.”
Women Power Up In Cycling
They are the women of USA Cycling. Jennifer Valente, Chloé Dygert and Hannah Roberts each won gold medals at the Pan Am Games, and they did it in different disciplines. Valente, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist in track cycling’s team pursuit, won a gold medal in women’s omnium. Dygert, who was also part of the 2016 team pursuit team that won a silver medal and has already secured a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team with her world title in the road time trial, captured two gold medals in Lima, one in the individual time trial in road racing and one in team pursuit with Christina Birch, Kim Geist and Lily Williams. Roberts, now a two-time world champion, won a gold medal in BMX freestyle park, a discipline that makes its Olympic debut next year.
U.S. Women And Men Dominate Squash Podiums In Historic Fashion
U.S. squash players simply ruled the moment in Lima. The women, led by Amanda Sobhy, swept gold medals in singles, doubles and team for the second consecutive time, an achievement no other nation has matched. Sisters Amanda and Sabrina Sobhy piled up five gold medals for the family trophy case. Sabrina Sobhy, who is Amanda’s younger sister and was playing in the Pan Am Games for the first time, teamed up with Amanda to win a gold medal in doubles and also was a part of the winning women’s team. They were joined by Olivia Blatchford Clyne, who also won the women’s singles silver medal. But it wasn’t just about the women. For the first time, the U.S. men won gold medals in team and doubles. Chris Hanson and Todd Harrity combined to win in men’s doubles. Another medal, a bronze, was won by Blatchford Clyne and Andrew Douglas in mixed team.
McKenna Dahl Is First Gold Medalist In Parapan American Shooting History
McKenna Dahl, the first American medalist in Para shooting history at the Paralympic Games, made more history as shooting made its debut Parapan American Games in Lima. Dahl won a gold medal in the mixed 10-meter air rifle standing SH2 event. With that victory, Dahl became the first-ever gold medalist in shooting at the Parapan American Games. She also was the first American medalist in any sport at this year’s Games.
Clara Brown Is 4-For-4 In Road And Track Cycling Debut
Clara Brown found the fast lane in her Parapan American Games debut. The 23-year-old former gymnast from Maine won a medal in every event she entered in Lima, including three gold medals. She competed in both road and track events, capturing gold medals in road race and time trial in the women’s C3 class, and winning a gold medal in individual pursuit and a bronze medal in the 500-meter time trial in track.
Unbeaten Run For U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team
The U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team finished off its run toward a gold medal in Lima with a sweep of Brazil in the title game. No surprise there. Team USA won all five matches in the tournament and lost just one of 16 sets. The U.S. won the final 25-16, 25-19, 25-13. The team had already qualified for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 via its second-place finish in the 2018 World ParaVolley World Championships. The U.S. is defending Paralympic champion. Outside hitter Heather Erickson, a three-time Paralympic medalist, led the U.S. in the title match with 17 points.
Thinking Tokyo: U.S. Teams Earn Quota Spots For Paralympic Games
U.S. teams loaded up on quota spots for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Team USA reached the podium in every team sport at the Parapan American Games, and among those were the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball squads, men’s goalball team and wheelchair rugby team. Those four teams clinched quota spots for Tokyo (women’s goalball had previously qualified). The men’s wheelchair basketball team is looking for a second consecutive Paralympic gold medal after winning the title for the first time in 28 years in Rio in 2016. The U.S. women are also defending Paralympic champions. Tahl Leibovitz earned an individual qualification for Tokyo in table tennis.
World-Record Debut For Sebastiana Lopez-Arellano
Sebastiana Lopez-Arellano, a retired Air Force staff sergeant, delivered powerfully in her Parapan American Games debut. She broke a world record in the women’s discus F55 to place fifth in the mixed class event and won medals in two other events. Lopez-Arellano won a silver medal in the F53/54/55 women’s shot put with a toss of 15.46 and won a bronze medal in the F53/54/55 women’s shot put with a distance of 7.63 meters. Lopez-Arellano scored her name in the world-record books with a throw of 20.52 meters in the discus.
Cinnamo, Grewe Break World Records
Josh Cinnamo and Sam Grewe were quick to redo the record books, setting world marks on the second day of the track and field competition at the Parapan American Games. Cinnamo broke his own world record in the F46 men’s shot put, hitting a distance of 16.49 meters to win his first international medal. Grewe, a Paralympic silver medalist in the high jump, won his first Parapan American gold medal with a high jump of 1.90 meters, breaking the T63 world record by four centimeters.
U.S. Scores A Bronze Medal In Soccer 7-A-Side
The U.S. went from last to the podium in soccer 7-a-side. And that was a cause for celebration. Nick Mayhugh and Cameron DeLillo each scored twice in a 7-0 victory over Venezuela in the bronze-medal game. It was the first medal finish for the U.S. in 7-a-side, and came after a fifth-out-of-five finish at the 2015 Parapan American Games. “This means the world to us,” Mayhugh told TeamUSA.org.
Carson Sanocki Wins 4 Medals In Parapan American Debut
Carson Sanocki set an American record in his Parapan American Games debut in the pool, posting a mark of 57.16 seconds in the preliminary round of the men’s S13 100-meter freestyle. It was just the beginning of a journey that he hopes results in a spot on the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team in Tokyo. Sanocki won four medals in Lima: two golds, one silver and one bronze, capping off the Games with a gold medal-winning performance in the men’s 200-meter individual medley.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.