PALMIRA, Colombia – The weightlifting competition at the Junior Pan American Games Cali-Valle 2021 came to a close Monday afternoon and Team USA once again proved it is a powerhouse in the region with several rising stars who should contend for medals in the sport for years to come.
The U.S. leaves the Games with an astonishing seven medals (three golds, two silvers, two bronzes), three athletes qualified to the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 and 11 personal records met or set.
“This first-of-its-kind Games saw a record-breaking performance from an exceptional upcoming generation of Team USA athletes,” USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said. “Panam Sports gave young athletes a direct opportunity to qualify into the next Pan American Games, and these athletes took that opportunity with both hands. Congratulations to the whole team on outstanding performances and our gold medalists for progressing to Santiago 2023.”
This is the greatest number of medals the U.S. has earned at any level of Pan American Games in 22 years. The 1999 team took home nine medals; that 14-athlete squad included now-Hall of Famers Wes Barnett, Oscar Chaplin, Lea Foreman, Robin Goad, Shane Hamman, Cheryl Haworth, Cara Heads Slaughter and Tara Nott.
The performance was made even more impressive by the fact the Games came at the end of a busy year that included up to four international meets for U.S. team members.
The Americans trailed only host country Colombia, which won nine medals in the Ramón Elías López Arena, in the sport’s medal count. Mexico also earned seven in total, though with one gold and six silvers had fewer golds than the U.S.
Off the field of play, the team had a significant highlight of both Hampton Morris (61kg; Marietta, Ga.) and Olivia Reeves (76kg; Chattanooga, Tenn.) being selected the Opening Ceremony flag bearers, the first U.S. weightlifters to serve in the role in the known history of the Pan American Games.
Each individual winner at the inaugural Junior Pan American Games earned a spot by name at the Santiago 2023 Games, which includes Team USA’s Katie Estep (55kg; Auburn, Wash.), Ryan Grimsland (67kg; Lewisville, N.C.) and Reeves. Of the 14 weightlifting gold medals awarded, half went to Colombia, three to the U.S., two to Ecuador and one each to the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Estep, Grimsland and Reeves’ places in Santiago are in addition to the number of quotas the U.S. will earn based on its placement from a combination of 2021 and 2022 Pan American Championships results. After the 2021 edition, which was held earlier this month, the U.S. is first among women’s teams and fourth among men’s. The top three countries in each gender classification will field a full team to the Pan American Games, which, aside from the Olympic Games, is the largest multisport competition for athletes in the Americas.
Reeves made all six of her lifts in Palmira while Morgan McCullough (109kg; Granite Falls, N.C.), a bronze medalist, went five for six. All 10 Americans totaled and finished among the top six in their respective body-weight category. Medalists also included Morris and Meaghan Strey (59kg; Auburn, Wash.), both of whom claimed silver, and bronze medalist Ryland Shriver (+109kg; Sacramento, Calif.), who closed out the event for the team.
Avery Owens (+87kg; Fort Meade, Md.), 19, was the final U.S. woman to hit the platform Monday morning. After medaling abroad three times this year at 87kg, Owens was competing internationally as a +87kg athlete for the first time. She went three for three in the snatch, making lifts of 90, 93 and 96kg for a new personal record, then made her opening clean and jerk of 120 before missing both attempts of 125kg. Her 216kg total was good for fifth. Mexico’s Adbeel Noemi Rodriguez Lugo won with a 246kg total, followed by Cuba’s Marifelix Sarria Ruiz (223kg) and Brazil’s Taiane Justino De Lima (220kg).
In the men’s +109kg, Shriver set new personal bests across the board in his first meet at +109kg; he had never before competed above 102kg. The 19-year-old made snatches of 143 and 148kg before missing his final attempt at 151kg. Shriver’s opening clean and jerk of 182kg was initially ruled good, then overturned. He made his following lifts at 183 and 187kg. His third-place total of 335kg is eight kilograms above his previous record. Colombia’s Arley Fernando Bonilla won with new junior Pan American records of 155, 192 and 347kg; Ezequiel German Nieves of the Dominican Republic took silver with a 336kg total.
To date, the weightlifting team has contributed the third-most medals to Team USA’s overall medal count. The Junior Pan American Games ends Dec. 5.
Team USA Weightlifting Results:
Hampton Morris (61kg; Marietta, Ga.); Snatch: 119kg, Clean and Jerk: 148kg, Total: 267kg (silver)
Ryan Grimsland (67kg; Lewisville, N.C.); Snatch: 129kg, Clean and Jerk: 159kg, Total: 288kg (gold)
Chrisanto D’Agostino (96kg; Moorhead, Minn.); Snatch: 135kg, Clean and Jerk: 185kg, Total: 320kg (6th)
Morgan McCullough (109kg; Granite Falls, N.C.); Snatch: 145kg, Clean and Jerk: 190kg, Total: 335kg (bronze)
Ryland Shriver (+109kg; Sacramento, Calif.); Snatch: 148kg, Clean and Jerk: 187kg, Total: 335kg (bronze)
Katie Estep (55kg; Auburn, Wash.); Snatch: 83kg, Clean and Jerk: 109kg, Total: 192kg (gold)
Meaghan Strey (59kg; Auburn, Wash.); Snatch: 90kg, Clean and Jerk: 104kg, Total: 194kg (silver)
Olivia Reeves (76kg; Chattanooga, Tenn.); Snatch: 105kg, Clean and Jerk: 130kg, Total: 235kg (gold)
Anna McElderry (87kg; Oley, Pa.); Snatch: 97kg, Clean and Jerk: 116kg, Total: 213kg (5th)
Avery Owens (+87kg; Fort Meade, Md.); Snatch: 96kg, Clean and Jerk: 120kg, Total: 216kg (5th)