By Norm Frauenheim
Winnipeg, Canada – It was a day for records, dubious and dramatic. The drama belonged to Francisco Sanchez of Venezuela and Curtis Myden of Canada. The dubious was All-American. For the first time in 44 years, the United States failed to win a Pan American Games medal in an individual event, the men’s 100m butterfly. The last time the U.S. didn’t win an individual Pan Am medal was in 1955 with a sixth and eighth in the men’s 200m backstroke.
Both of the U.S. butterfly entrants, Sabir Muhammad and Jarod Schroeder, failed to make the championship final. “What you saw this morning were two guys who didn’t have the best swims of their lives,” said Muhammad, who finished 17th in preliminaries and moved in evening’s consolation heat as an alternate.
For Muhammad, the prelims were more than mere disppointment. “I was shocked,” said the Atlanta native, who holds the American record in the short-course 50m and 100m butterfly events. ` The start proved to be the end.
“It was the worst dive I’ve ever had in a race,” said Muhammad, who went 57.20 in the prelims and 56.41 for fourth — 12th overall — in the consolations. “I went four meters, straight down.”
It wasn’t much better for Schroeder, who was 11th in the prelims at 55.89 and second — 10th overall – in the consolations at 55.11 “It was very disappointing,” Schroeder said. “To put in all the work that we did, and then this? We’ll have to make some adjustments before next year.” Sanchez was as happy as the U.S. was disappointed. He also was a surprised by his gold medal in the 100m butterfly in a Pan Am record of 53.33, which broke the 1991 record of 53.45 held by 1988 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Nesty of Surinam.
“I didn’t expect to win,” said Sanchez, who said he still thinks he’s best at the 100m freestyle. “But, hey, this was great.” In winning only the third gold medal for Venezuela at these Games, Sanchez, also of Arizona State University, said he cut six-tenths of a second off his personal best.
Meanwhile, Myden continued to perform at a level to which his fellow Canadians have grown accustomed. The 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, Canada’s Swimmer of the Year from 1994 through 1997, had no challengers in the 400m individual medley as he broke his own Pan Am record by more than three seconds with a gold medal-winning time of 4:15.52.