By Todd Kortemeier | July 19, 2019, 1:08 p.m. (ET)

Deidre Freeman and Maren Taylor dive at the Pan American Games Toronto 2015 on July 13, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. 


More than just Pan-American superiority will be on the line this month and next in Lima, Peru.

The 18th edition of the Pan American Games, which begin July 26, will also have implications for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Team USA athletes can qualify directly for the Olympic Games in some sports, while others will have Olympic quota spots up for grabs for the country. Still others may not have qualifying on the line, but athletes can improve their Olympic standing based on their performances.

Modern pentathlon is one sport where athletes can directly qualify themselves for the Games. Five men and five women will qualify, with at least two in each coming from North America, Central America and Caribbean nations. Team USA contenders to watch out for include Amro Elgeziry, a three-time Olympian for Egypt who is looking to make his first Games with Team USA, and three-time national champion Samantha Achterberg. Also vying for Olympic berths will be 2014 Youth Olympian Brendan Anderson, Jessica Davis and 2016 Olympian Isabella Isaksen.

Karatekas cannot qualify directly for Tokyo during the Games, but winning a medal in Lima could qualify them at the close of the qualification period on April 6, 2020. The U.S. will send a team of nine to Lima: Ashley Hill, Sakura Kokumai, Brian Irr, Cirrus Lingl, Kamran Madani, Cheryl Murphy, Shannon Nishi, Tom Scott and Ariel Torres.

Surfing and tennis are two more “wait and see” sports. The top male and female surfer not already qualified for Tokyo will make it, but that won’t be determined until May 2020. The winner and runner-up in men’s and women’s singles tennis will also qualify if their country hasn’t already qualified four men and four women via the ATP/WTA rankings as of June 2020.

Olympic quota spots will be available to Team USA in nine additional sports. The athletes who win these spots for their country won’t necessarily be the ones competing in Tokyo, as each sport has its own individual qualifications process, but it will guarantee the U.S. can field athletes for those events.

One men’s and one women’s quota are available in archery. A gold medal in mixed team recurve will earn those places. Three-time Olympian Brady Ellison and five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig highlight the U.S. recurve archers.

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In diving, quotas are available in women’s 3-meter individual. Athletes who win gold in those events will win the quotas for their country. Sarah Bacon and Brooke Schultz will compete in women’s 3-meter for Team USA.

Eventing, one of three disciplines of equestrian, has a team quota spot and the three individual spots that come with it going to the team that finishes first or second in the team competition. The U.S. eventing team includes two-time Olympian Boyd Martin.

A gold medal in field hockey will win a quota spot for both men and women. The U.S. women’s team is the two-time defending gold medalist at the Pan American Games.

In sailing, the highest placed country not yet qualified for Tokyo will earn quota spots in 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17. Team USA will be represented in those events by Ian McDiarmid and Andrew Mollerus (49er), Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea (49erFX), and Anna Weis and Riley Gibbs (Nacra 17).

The U.S. still has many quotas to be earned shooting: two each in men’s trap and women’s air pistol, and one apiece in in men’s rapid fire pistol, men’s air pistol, men’s air rifle, women’s three-position rifle, women’s air rifle and women’s sport pistol. Athletes must finish first and/or second in each respective event, or first and/or second behind nations that have already earned two quotas in that event to earn the spot. Shooters who have already earned a quota for Team USA cannot earn another in the same event.

In synchronized swimming, quota spots are available in team and duet. Winning the team event secures a quota in both team and duet. Winning duet secures just that quota. Olympian Anita Alvarez will compete in both.

Winning gold in team handball means earning that quota spot. A runner-up finish by the men will clinch a berth in an Olympic qualifying tournament. The fate of the women’s runner-up is to be determined pending the results of the world championships in November and December. Team USA will be seeking its first handball medal since 1995.

And in water polo, a quota spot is available to the men’s team, who will have to win gold to get it. The U.S. men are the six-time defending Pan Am champions.

Finally, four sports will include the Pan American Games as part of their Olympic qualification process. Badminton results will count toward the world rankings, which is how Olympic qualification is awarded for singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Swimmers are able to record an Olympic Qualifying Time (“A” Time) or a qualifying time to make it to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming. Similarly for track and field, athletes can meet entry standards.

And in weightlifting, the Pan Am Games are considered a silver-level event for Olympic qualifying. That means Pan Am results carry the second-most weight of any qualifying event, weighted at 1.05 toward an athlete’s ROBI ranking, which will determine the Olympic field.

Fans can keep track of Team USA’s progress in Lima at

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.