Five Things to Watch at the 2015 Pan American Games
July 20, 2015
The track and field competition at the 2015 Pan American Games began last Saturday with the women’s marathon, which was won by Peru’s Gladys Tejeda in a championship record, but the meat of the schedule takes place this week. The CIBC Pan Am and Parapan Am Athletics Stadium (aka the most boring stadium name in history) in Toronto will play host to five days of track events beginning on Tuesday.
Pan Ams obviously isn’t on par with the World Championships or Diamond League competition, but there are still some tasty storylines for the track-hungry fan.
1. The Andre De Grasse Show
2. A Hot Men’s 5,000 with Levins, Heath and Torrence
3. Three 1:57 Women Including Alysia Montaño in the 800
4. Olympians Andrew Wheating & Nate Brannen vs. Kyle Merber
5. Major star power (PPP, Caterine Ibarguen, etc).
We run through those five most appealing events below.
How to watch
In the U.S., you can watch the action online on ESPN3.com. Go to ESPN3.com and look under “Olympics,” then “Pan American Games” and then “2015 Pan American Games: Track and Field.”
Canadian viewers can follow the action on CBC.
1. The Andre De Grasse Show
Event: Men’s 100 (prelims Tuesday, 11:10 a.m. ET; semis Wednesday, 6:50 p.m. ET; final Wednesday, 8:50 p.m. ET)
Men’s 200 (prelims Thursday, 11:30 a.m. ET; semis Thursday, 6:20 p.m. ET; final Friday, 5:55 p.m. ET)
Men’s 4×100 relay (prelims Friday, 8:15 p.m. ET; final Saturday, 8:05 p.m. ET)
20-year-old Andre De Grasse burst onto the scene at the NCAA championships in June, pulling off a ridiculous 9.75/19.58 double in the span of 50 minutes (both wind-aided) to win the 100 and 200. Since then, De Grasse, who just completed his junior year at USC, has competed only once, comfortably winning the Canadian Championships in Edmonton on July 3 in 9.95 (a wind-legal PR).
The spotlight will be much brighter on De Grasse in Toronto, as he is now on of the biggest stars of not just the track and field competition, but the entire games. De Grasse grew up in Markham, just 20 minutes north of Toronto, and he’ll have the entire country behind him as he attempts to win triple gold (100, 200, 4×100 relay). De Grasse will have as many as eight races in a four-day span (seven if Canada keeps him out of the 4×100 prelim) and while he’s a good bet to win the 100, he may have some competition in the 200. 2014 Diamond League champ Alonso Edward of Panama shares a 20.03 SB with De Grasse and USA third- and fourth-placers Wallace Spearmon (20.10 SB) and BeeJay Lee (20.11) could also challenge him.
De Grasse has said he is running only the 100 in Beijing, and since the only Diamond League event after Pan Ams (Stockholm) features only a men’s 200, this could be our last chance to see what he’s capable of over the shorter distance. Right now, his wind legal PR is 9.95, not quite fast enough to challenge for a medal, but his 9.75 at NCAAs converts to 9.87 with no wind; a time in the 9.80s is fast enough for a medal this year.
Because of his age and rapid improvement (he began sprinting late in high school after mostly focusing on basketball; his PR before this year was 10.15), he may have the best chance of anyone (save a fully-fit Usain Bolt) of challenging Justin Gatlin at Worlds.
But right now, Gatlin is in a different league. He’s run a wind-legal 9.75 or better three times already in 2015; De Grasse’s 9.75 had 2.7 m/s of wind. No one else has bettered 9.81. If De Grasse can top his NCAA performance and run in the 9.70s (wind-legal) in Toronto, then we can start talking about him legitimately challenging Gatlin in Beijing. That’s a hard ask, however, but it will be worth tuning into Pan Ams to see if he can do it.
2. A Hot Men’s 5,000 (Saturday, 8:50 p.m. ET): Levins Vs. Heath and Torrence
You can’t ask for much more from a distance race at the Pan American Games. The top three from last month’s U.S. trials are skipping the meet to rest up for Worlds, but this is still a competitive field. The host nation’s Cam Levins has been in fine form this year and is the favorite, having run a Canadian record of 27:07 for 10,000 at the Pre Classic at May.
However, Levins is vulnerable in a slower race, and the U.S. entrants — Garrett Heath (3:34 1500 pb) and David Torrence (3:33 pb) — are well-positioned to take advantage. Levins (3:36 pb) was only sixth in the 1500 at the Canadian championships earlier this month, and even though he was doubling back from the 5,000 two days earlier, that result will give Heath and Torrence hope that they can take down Levins. Heath, after all, was just .07 of a second off of doing the same to Levins’ training partner Galen Rupp at USAs. Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios, the defending champion who defeated Heath and Torrence at Payton Jordan in May, should also be in the thick of the medal hunt.
Stanford’s Joe Rosa, who hasn’t raced since taking 33rd at NCAA XC in November, is entered for Puerto Rico.
3. Three 1:57 Women Including Alysia Montaño in the 800 (prelims Tuesday, 6:45 p.m. ET; final Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Ten women have broken 1:58 in the 800 since the start of 2013 and three of them are in this race. 23-year-old Cuban Rose Mary Almanza has the #2 time in the world this year at 1:57.70; 19-year-old countrywoman Sahily Diago ran 1:57.74 last year and took silver at World Juniors, though she hasn’t been running as well this year (she ran 1:59.91 in May but her best time since then is 2:00.99).
Then there’s Alysia Montaño, who impressively won her sixth U.S. title last month in Eugene but has yet to race since. Montaño, like fellow U.S. champ Nick Symmonds, has been content to sit out the European season in favor of staying at home (there is one more DL 800, in Stockholm on July 30, should she choose to run it) to train and look after daughter Linnea. Montaño still knows how to run the rounds, though, (4th at the last two World Championships and 5th at the 2012 Olympics) so expect her to challenge for the win here.
Canada’s Melissa Bishop (1:59.52 PB/SB) and American Phoebe Wright (6th at USAs) are a couple of other women worth watching.
4. Olympians Andrew Wheating & Nate Brannen vs. Kyle Merber
Event: Men’s 1500 (prelims Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET; final Friday, 6:05 p.m. ET)
Now that Robby Andrews and Leo Manzano both have the IAAF standard, USA fifth- and sixth-placers Andrew Wheating and Kyle Merber are officially shut out of Worlds, barring an injury to multiple U.S. runners (fourth-placer Ben Blankenship would be next in line to go in case of an injury). But they’ll still get to pull on the USA singlet in Toronto, where both runners have a great chance to land among the medals in the 1500.
This race really boils down to the U.S. and Canada as on paper they’ve got the top four entrants. Wheating has been inconsistent this year and hasn’t raced since finishing 5th at USAs, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance, including his race at USAs, where he closed well over the final 100 but was too far back to have an impact (he went from ninth to fifth in the home straight. Merber has built on a successful 2014 by making his first U.S. final and running a PR of 3:34.54.
2013 World Championship finalist Nate Brannen leads the Canadian entries and though he was only fifth at an ultra-slow Canadian championships (winning time: 4:06), he ran 3:35.42 in Heusden-Zolder last weekend, his fastest time since 2012. Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, the other Canadian, ran similarly fast last week, taking advantage of a spot in the ridiculous Monaco 1500 to shave four seconds off his 1500 PR (down to 3:34.23).
If someone is to break up the U.S./Canada medal party, the best bet is Brazilian Thiago Andre. The 19-year-old was 4th in the 800 and 1500 at World Juniors last year and ran a big PR of 3:35.90 in Hengelo in May (though he hasn’t raced since June 14).
5. Major star power
The events highlight above figure to be the most interesting to the typical LRC reader, but there are plenty of others that, while lacking in depth, do offer a big name at the top. They include:
- Men’s triple jump (Friday, 11:35 a.m. ET), which features world leader (and #3 jumper of all-time) Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Cuba.
- Women’s triple jump (Tuesday, 6:05 p.m. ET), featuring world champ Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia.
- Men’s 400 hurdles (prelims Wednesday, 12:20 p.m. ET; final Thursday, 5:40 p.m. ET), which includes former world champs Kerron Clement of the USA (2007 & 2009), Jehue Gordon of Trinidad & Tobago (2013) and Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic (2001 & 2003; also Olympic champ in 2004 & 2012).
- Men’s 110 hurdles (prelims Friday, 10:10 a.m. ET; final Friday, 1:10 p.m. ET), which contains reigning U.S./world champ David Oliver.
- Women’s 400 hurdles (prelims Tuesday, 12:05 p.m. ET; final Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. ET), featuring world leader/U.S. champ Shamier Little and U.S. third-placer Kori Carter.
Two final bonus events worth noting:
The men’s 800 (prelims Wednesday, 11:35 a.m. ET; final Thursday, 6:40 p.m. ET) features a bunch of U.S. collegians, led by USA fourth-placer Clayton Murphy of Akron. 2014 NCAA champ Brandon McBride and former Dartmouth runner Anthony Romaniw make up the Canadian contingent, while Andres Arroyo of Puerto Rico (8th at NCAAs for Florida) and the U.S.’s Ryan Martin (5th at USAs) are also entered.
The men’s marathon (Saturday, 7:05 a.m. ET) was the subject of some controversy in the U.S. as Craig Leon had to hire a lawyer to cement his spot on the team after Tyler McCandless was initially placed on Team USA. Per USATF’s selection policies, the two runners with the fastest times on IAAF-approved courses from July 1, 2014 to March 29, 2015 (and who wished to compete at Pan Ams) would be placed on Team USA. Initially, Leon (who ran 2:14:43 in Houston in January) was overlooked in favor of McCandless (who ran 2:15:26 at Twin Cities last October) but the arbitrator ruled in favor of Leon, who will don the USA singlet on Saturday along with 2:14:40 man Tim Young.
Perhaps in future it might make sense to expand the field (each nation is capped at two entrants). The men’s race has just 19 entrants; last week’s women’s marathon had only 11 finishers.
Discuss the meet on our messageboard: Are you ready for 2015 Pan Ams? We are. The action is darn good and starts Tuesday – 5 Storylines to watch.