The final day of rowing at the XVI Pan Am Games sees the US in four finals--Light Women's Single, Women's Quad, Men's Single, and Men's Eight--with a chance to finish atop the rowing medal table. After two days, the US is tied with Argentina for total medals at 5, while the Argentines lead in wins: four golds to USA's two. Wednesday also features the third lightweight Olympic boat class--the light men's four--which promises to settle some unfinished business from Worlds and set the stage for which of the Pan Am countries can get their light men qualified for London.
Light Men's Four - Wednesday, 9:38 am (CT)
Argentina, the crew that was, after all, the best finisher in Bled (15th overall) to come race here at Pan Ams, set the pace their heat and will be looking to add to what has been one of the best Pan Am's ever for Argentina--four golds and counting. Mexico, also a C Finalist at Worlds, showed good, podium-potential speed with a fast run down the stretch that sent Cuba and the USA packing for the reps. That Cuban crew looked to be among the favorites here--they nearly made the A/B semi in Bled, but wound up all the way in the D Final in the end--and they did take the win in the rep, but it remains to be seen which Cuban crew shows up in the final now. Chile, who had an even closer call in Bled to just miss on catching a spot in the top 12, won the second heat with little trouble and will get their rematch now with the Argentine crew that nipped them in the C Final at Worlds. Canada was also able to advance comfortably in that second heat, over Brazil, who then made it through the rep, rounding out the final with their pair of Olympians: Jose Sobral, Jr, (2004) and Thiago Almeida (2008). The US crew will be racing the B final after losing touch with the Cubans and Brazilians in the repechage.
Light Women's Single - Wednesday, 9:56 am (CT)
A bit like the draw in the open single, the light single had fully four finalists racing in heat one, including favorites Fabiana Beltrame, Brazil's World Champ, and Jen Goldsack of the USA. Beltrame, who stormed to her win in Bled--Brazil's first Worlds gold ever--took that first round, and the ticket straight to the final. Goldsack, a 2008 Olympian who is launching her comeback at these Games, had no trouble advancing through the repechage. With neither Beltrame or Goldsack amongst the group of doubling rowers in the event, both come to Wednesday's final on a full day of rest. The last spot on the podium could be Cuba's: Yaima Velazquez, who raced Goldsack in the light double in Beijing, took the other heat handily, but she also had her final in the light double--where she won won silver--on Tuesday.
The rest of the field features Argentina's Deborah Lince, from the light quad which raced to 8th at Worlds, and El Salvador's Marta Figueroa, the only other sculler here besides Beltrame to race the single at Worlds this year (finishing 17th). Figueroa, though, just narrowly made the final, by inches over Mexico in the repechage. Rowing down both Figueroa and Lince in that rep, as well as the Mexican, was Paraguay's Gabriela Mosqueira. She won the B Final at U23s this year in this event, and made the A Final at the 2009 U23s, so Mosqueira--one of just two Paraguan scullers at these Games and focused solely on this event--could be primed to take a run at her first international podium.
Women's Quad - Wednesday, 10:20 am (CT)
The quad is the biggest boat on the women's side of the Pan Am program and every country in doubling up at least half their line-up from other events. In a preliminary "race for lanes" on Sunday, Mexico set the pace after a strong first 500 from both Argentina and Canada. The Mexican quad is stroked by Gabriela Huerta, who just missed a medal in the open double on Monday, and would be looking for the host nation's fourth medal of the Games. Argentina's stroke, Gabriela Best, will be looking for third medal all her own; she already has a gold from the pair and a silver from the single--that's a "one medal a day" pace for the 2008 Olympian. The Canadian quad is stroked by another Beijing veteran, Melanie Kok, who won Olympic bronze in the LW2x, and Kok now has three newly-minted Pan Am bronze medalists to race with here, in Barbara McCord (W2x), Isolda Penney (W1x), and Audra Vair (W2x).
Brazil and Cuba are doubling up with lightweight scullers, which is not surprising given the priority that lightweight events have in the Olympic scheme of things for those countries. The US quad, after two very successful days for the US women on Lake Zapotlan, will go to the line with a pair of silvers--from Meg Walsh and Catherine Reddick in the open double--and a pair of bronzes--from Michelle Sechser and Chelsea Smith in the light double. All four train together at the Oklahoma City Training Center, and that kind of time together, along with the speed they shown so far, could put the US women in a good spot to continue a nice streak of podium finishes.
Men's Single - Wednesday, 10:42 am (CT)
Heats in the men's singles served up another lopsided singles draw, pitting Cuba's Angel Fornier and the US's Ken Jurkowski--the top two finishers from Worlds competing here--in a race that was one round too early to generate any real racing from such seasoned scullers. Fournier took the win and, having also run out ahead of Jurkowski in Bled to take 8th overall, still remains the man to beat. Jurkowski, as row2k noted at the time, only needed to secure 11th in that B Final race to get an Olympic bid. Here the top step on the podium will be the prize, and the American moved on easily in the repechage to set up what should finally be a real race between these two.
The next best finisher from Bled, the host nation's Patrick Loliger, won the other heat handily. Loliger raced Jurkowski in the quarterfinals at Worlds, and trailed him the whole way en route to the C Final, where he took 15th overall. Looking to challenge Loliger for what looks to be the last podium spot will be Canada's Mike Braithwaite, a 2009 U23s bronze medalist in the single, Venezuela's Emilo Torres, who comes out of his nation's Worlds quad, and Argentina's Cristian Rosso, from the men's double which won Pan Am gold on Monday.
Men's Eight - Wednesday, 10:57 am (CT)
The six men's eights took one trip down the course in a preliminary race on Sunday to set the lanes. After a wind delay that pushed the prelim into the late afternoon--and lots of sitting around--the US and Canadians apparently felt there was not much left to do but throw down a good old-fashioned boat race. Canada led most of the way, but the US finished with a sprint that gave them the win, for what that might be worth when the results really matter on Wednesday. Mexico and Argentina traded paint a good 14 seconds back in the prelim, as both passed Cuba. Mexico snatched third and so, for a race that wasn't a race, the eights prelim certainly suggested there will be some intrigue for at least one spot on the podium.
The USA has owned the Pan Am Men's eight outright since 1995--in 1991, then-host Cuba snuck through for a home gold--and overall, the USA has won the eight 11 times since the 15 Pan Am Games started in since 1951. The lineup in this US eight spans the spectrum from experience, with 2004 Olympic champ Jason Read up near the bow and 2008 bronze medalist Marcus McElhenney at the helm, to potential, with Pan Am and U23 champs Mike Gennaro and Ty Otto, but Canada brings a similar mix to the line and in this one last trip down the Zapotlan course for these athletes, it should be a good race to the podium.
Look for race results right here on row2k, and tune in to ESPN Deportes coverage of the Pan Am Games Tuesday night from 4-11 pm.