Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (23 October 2011) – She was silver four years ago at the 2007 Rio Pan Am Games but this year Sarah Haskins stepped up to gold at the 16th Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. With a devastating swim-bike combo with teammate Sara McLarty, Haskins comfortably won by almost a three-minute margin.
“It’s just an awesome way to end the season,” said Haskins. “I’m just so happy with my season, to be injury-free and just to be out there and feeling good.”
Barbara Riveros Diaz staged an amazing comeback in the run to secure Chile’s first ever triathlon medal at the Pan Am Games. After cycling in the lead group the entire race, Pamela Nascimento Oliveira managed to hang on for the bronze.
In the men’s competition, Brazilian big man Reinaldo Colucci snatched victory at the Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta today, and stamped it as his career’s greatest achievement.
“For us in Brazil, Pan American Games is the next (biggest) race after the Olympics and this was my main goal this year,” said Colucci. “I was not training so hard in the beginning of the year to be in my top form for today. I’m so happy because it worked and the race was perfect.”
Colucci outlasted American Manuel Huerta who settled for silver while Canada’s Brent McMahon claimed the bronze.
Elite Women Review
McLarty and Haskins set the pace almost immediately in the 2-lap 1.5km swim as the small field of 29 women began to spread out early on.
The American duo, along with Oliveira, exited the water with a minute lead on the next closest athlete, Claudia Rivas of Mexico. Pre-race favourite Riveros Diaz had a poor swim and was almost two minutes down, along with Canada’s Kathy Tremblay, Melissa Rios of Puerto Rico and Elizabeth Bravo of Ecuador.
The second chase group that included Riveros Diaz and Tremblay was also losing time to the leaders but at least was making up ground on the pack in front of them.
“It was a very hard race. I knew I had to fight like a tiger on the bike and it was pretty hard to stimulate the girls because they all wanted to save their legs but I think they didn’t understand the race is in the front, it’s not where we are,” said Riveros Diaz, who credited her Chilean teammate Favia Diaz for putting a lot of work on the bike. That helped their group successfully bridge up to the main chase pack, giving Riveros Diaz a glint of hope for the podium.
By the end of the first of three run laps, Haskins opened up a 55-second lead on Oliveira while McLarty faded further back. Riveros Diaz and Tremblay were running side-by-side, both down by 3:40 to Haskins.
Haskins came down the finish chute to the cheers of the crowd and lifted the finish tape at 1 hour, 57 minutes and 37 seconds as the new Pan Am Games gold medallist.
Behind her, the battle for silver and bronze heated up in the final lap of the run. The Chilean tiger Riveros Diaz refused back down and eventually passed Oliveira to complete a furious rally for the silver medal with the day’s fastest run split. She was the only woman to run sub-36:00 on a blistering hot day.
“The thing is, you have to have the spirit to keep fighting until the end,” said Riveros Diaz, who made up 1:40 in the final lap to secure silver. “What a lot of people might think is impossible, you have to put in your mind and say ‘come on, it could be possible’ so it’s a great thing and I’m happy.”
XVI Pan American Games – Women’s Triathlon
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
|2.||Barbara Riveros Diaz||CHI||02:00:23|
|3.||Pamela Nascimento Oliveira||BRA||02:00:32|
Elite Men Review
Like the women’s race earlier, the field started to separate early as three distinct packs formed. Cuba’s Michel Gonzalez and Luciano Farias of Argentina set the early pace with Colucci, McMahon, Gerardo Vergara of Guatemala and Leandro Lobo of Venezuela close behind.
Out of T1, a lead group of almost 20 men tackled the 40km bike course together. By the end of the first lap, they owned a 1:20 lead. In that lead group were Colucci, all three Americans – Matt Chrabot, Huerta and Mark Fretta, as well as the Canadians McMahon and Kyle Jones, Leonardo Chacon of Costa Rica, Jason Wilson of Barbados, Gonzalez and Crisanto Grajales of Mexico.
What began as a 1:20 lead was cut to 53 seconds at the end of the fourth lap. As the chase group continued to work to cut the gap, they further shaved down the lead to 30 seconds when they hit the bell lap.
McMahon was the first to step onto the 10km run course as the temperature soared to almost 40 degrees Celsius.
On the first of three run laps, McMahon, Huerta and Colucci surged to the front and distanced themselves from the rest of the field. They opened up a 20-second lead on Jones and 30 seconds on Gonzalez who was running in fifth place.
Huerta and Colucci opened up a slight lead on McMahon as they came through transition one last time and heard the bell, signifying just one lap to go in the battle for gold.
“I was very confident with my sprint,” recalled Colucci at the finish area after the race. “I tried to put on a cruising pace, not push so hard and wait until the last 800 or 600 metres to really pick the pace up and sprint. It worked perfectly because he (Huerta) dropped straight away and I could even celebrate in the last hundred metres.”
Down the finish chute with victory in hand, Colucci grabbed the Brazilian flag and celebrated across the finish line, clocking in at 1 hour, 48 minutes, and two seconds. It was a sweet victory for Colucci on his daughter’s birthday.
“She’s one year old today, and though she’s not here today, I guess that’s the perfect present for her from her dad,” said Colucci.
Huerta held off McMahon for the silver, a breakthrough performance for the American.
XVI Pan American Games – Men’s Triathlon
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
|8.||Felipe Van de Wyngard||CHI||01:50:14|