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. Claudia Rivas was the top Mexican in sixth place.
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. It was another 23 seconds before Brazil's Flavia Fernandes was the next athlete to emerge from the water. She was followed closely by Gwen Jorgensen of the U.S. and Bermuda's Flora Duffy. 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.
Meanwhile, McLarty and Haskins hammered ahead and transformed what was a one-minute lead, to almost four minutes by the end of the 40km bike.
Rivas fell back to the chase pack which also included Duffy, Jorgensen, Fernandes and Anahi Leon of Mexico. 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.
Up ahead, McLarty, Haskins and Oliveira came off the bike with a sizeable lead of almost four minutes but with stellar runners like Jorgensen and Riveros Diaz behind them, the podium positions were still in question.
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. Jorgensen was running in sixth place, about four minutes behind her American teammate.
As they came around for the bell lap, Haskins stretched her lead over Oliveira to almost two minutes and looked to have the victory sealed. While Riveros Diaz and Tremblay moved up in a battle for the final podium spot.
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.
"The swim was probably the hardest part, it was really hot in there," said Haskins. "Our goal was to work together as a team and we had many different scenarios on how to pull it together and I'm just so happy it worked, most especially for our Team USA over my individual gold."
2011 XVI Pan American Games Triathlon Results
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
|Elite Women Results||Country||Time||Place||Elite Men Results||Country||Time|
|Felipe Van de Wyngard||CHI||1:50:14|
Reinaldo Colucci outlasts Manuel Huerta for Pan Am Games title
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. Colucci outlasted American Manuel Huerta who settled for silver while Canada's Brent McMahon claimed the bronze.
"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."
With a toasty water temperature of 29 degrees Celsius, 40 men dove into the swim course in Puerto Vallarta for the opening 2-lap, 1.5km swim.
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.
The chase group included Mexicans Francisco Serrano and Arturo Garza, Bermuda's Tyler Butterfield, Chile's Felipe Barraza and Gonzalo Raul Tellechea and Luciano Taccone of Argentina.
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.
Photo Credits: Rich Cruse