The ITU crowd turned their attention to the Pan American Games this weekend. Held this year in Toronto, top triathletes would compete over the standard Olympic distance 1500m swim, 40km bike, and 10km run, set along Lake Ontario. More was on the line than individual glory, as athletes had the opportunity to qualify their country’s team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio by taking the top slot.
Six American athletes would be competing, three women on Saturday (Sarah Haskins, Chelsea Burns, Erin Jones) and three men on Sunday (Hunter Kemper, Eric Lagerstrom, Kevin McDowell). Haskins is the returning PanAm women’s champion, having won the 2011 race, while Burns and Jones are first-timers. Kemper, age 39, has medaled at the PanAm games twice in the past; taking silver in 1999 and the overall victory in 2003. Lagerstrom and McDowell are making their PanAm debut. Other familiar names in the mix are Canadians Paula Findlay, on the rebound after a disappointing London Olympics, and Kyle Jones, who has twice finished just off the podium in 4th at the PanAm games.
Flora Duffy (Bermuda) led a group of 5 women out of the swim, with Haskins in second. Coming out of the water and onto the bike, Duffy, Oliveira, and Haskins led the way, with Jones and Burns about a minute down in the chase group. Starting lap 2 on the bike, Duffy and Oliveira were riding together still; 90 seconds behind, a pair of Mexican athletes, Rivas and Rios, followed ahead of the main chase pack, which still included Haskins and Burns. The chase pack soon bridged up to Rivas and Rios, and the gap to Oliveira and Duffy narrowed to 1:10. On bike lap 3, Duffy made a move, gapping Oliveira by 0:15, while the chase group crept closer up. Haskins was leading the lead group of 16 athletes when they caught Duffy before the last lap; with her were Burns, Oliveira, Rivas, Findlay, Brown, and Pennock. Duffy and Chile’s Barbara Riveros broke away on the last lap and proceeded out of T2 in the lead.
With 17 athletes in total still largely together on the way out of T2, the 4 lap run would determine who medaled. Riveros led early, followed by Duffy, Rivas, and Findlay. Riveros went through the 5k still in the lead with a sub-17 minute 5k split time and a decent gap on Diaz, Duffy, Bravo and Burns. With the final lap starting, Riveros led by nearly 30 seconds; with Diaz holding down second, Duffy made a break for third, finally shaking Burns and Bravo. Riveros brought home the gold in a final time of 1:57:18 in her 3rd PanAm games; Riveros was the runner-up in 2011. Riveros’s win gets Chile a guaranteed team slot in the 2016 Olympics. In second and third were Diaz (Mexico) and Duffy (Brazil), each garnering their country’s first PanAm medal in triathlon.
Chelsea Burns held on strong in the run to finish 5th overall, while Sarah Haskins finished 8th and Erin Jones 19th. After starting the run together, Paula Findlay finished in 9th place, while fellow Canadian Ellen Pennock finished 6th. Findlay told press that she was racing with a knee injury and flu symptoms, and had been unsure if she would be able to start the race.
|7||Cecilia Perez Flores||Mexico||20:08||1:00:53||36:43||1:58:48|
Unfortunately there is no live streaming for today's #TO2015 race again. But we are here for you! So grab a coffee and tune in!
— TriathlonLIVE (@triathlonlive) July 12, 2015
.@triathlonlive Good God!! Who should we publicly lash for this egregious offense to theology, geometry, taste and decency.
— TRS Triathlon (@TheRealStarky) July 12, 2015
Just one day later, water temp was measured at 20.2 degrees C – so no wetsuits for the men (what?? Inequality?? This isn’t Ironman!). Also unlike the women, the men’s field spread out early in the swim, with Irving Perez (Mexico) leading the rest of the field in a line behind him, and Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk stubbornly on his heels in second position. Perez and Mislawchuk came out of the water together with an 18:46 swim split. Eric Lagerstrom and Argentina’s Bedriam led the bike after lap one, sitting in a group of four (alongside Rodrigo Gonzalez and Felipe Barraza) with three small chase packs behind them. Soon after, all packs became one, with Brazil’s Danilo Pimentel 1 second in front of a large group of 24 men at the start of lap 3. A small attempt at a breakaway took Gonzalez, Pimentel and Jason Wilson to the front. Canadian hearts broke as Kyle Jones pulled out of the race with a flat tire. Finally, the bell lap – Brazil’s Calucci led the way, with the pack still largely together. A speedy transition had Lagerstrom first out of T2 with American teammates Hunter Kemper and Kevin McDowell not far behind, but Canadian Andrew Yorke and Wilson soon took charge of the first lap of the run – and continued to lead at the halfway mark, despite a surging pair of Mexicans.
Mid-run, TriathlonLive tweeted a helpful reminder for athletes:
Remember whoever wins today's race qualifies their country a spot in #Rio2016!
— TriathlonLIVE (@triathlonlive) July 12, 2015
It all came down to the last lap. Wilson put 15 meters on Yorke, but Kevin McDowell crept up on his heels. Also coming back into the mix? Irving Perez and Crisanto Grajales. As Wilson faded, Grajales made a final push to win the gold and an Olympic team slot for Mexico. Kevin McDowell finished with the silver – outkicked by just 1 second at the finish line by Grajales – and Irving Perez took the bronze. McDowell, age 22, had stepped back from triathlon after a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 – and he can now add his silver medal here to an impressive list of recent accomplishments, including gold at the World University Triathlon Championships and two podium finishes at World Cup events. American teammates Hunter Kemper and Eric Lagerstrom finished in 8th and 17th place, respectively, with Lagerstrom posting the fastest bike split of the day.
— USA Triathlon (@USATlive) July 12, 2015