SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR, November 27. LOCAL hero Francisco Suriano had the home fans in a state of exultation this evening as he won his second swimming gold of the Central American and Caribbean Games.
Suriano is El Salvador's breaststroke specialist who earlier won the 100 in a pr/NR 1:04.51. Tonight he raced to the 200 win before an overflow crowd of highly partisan, flag-waving fans, stomping and cheering for their countryman in a scene reminiscent of the seventh game of last month's World Series at The Big Ed… or Felipe Munoz's victory in the same event at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Suriano stroked to the title in a pr/NR 2:20.60, with Guatemala's Alvaro Fortuny — a former All-America at George Washington University in the United States — runner-up in a pr/NR 2:22.82.
Suriano's time was also close to the Games' record of 2:17.26 by Mexico's Mario Gonzalez from the meeting in Ponce, Puerto Rico, nine years ago.
Venezuela got on the board when former Florida Gator Ricardo Monestario, a Sydney Olympian, won the 400 free in a Games record 3:57.63. Monestario's time broke his old standard of 3:58.88 from four years ago, when the Games were held in his home country's city of Maracaibo. And to make it a clean-sweep, teammate Ervin Moldanado took the silver (4:01.04).
Monestario's an excellent distance swimmer and has an 800 pr/NR of 8:02.19 from last year's World Championships in Fukuoka. In the mile, he's South American record-holder with his 15:16.01 from last summer's USA/Speedo Grand Prix at the Goodwill Games' Pool on Long Island.
Venzuela scored another gold when it won the 400 free relay (3:25.78), with former Arizona State Sun Devil Francisco (Poncho) Sanchez anchoring in a snappy 50.46. Venezuela has the Games record with its 3:23.49 from Maracaibo.
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On the women's side, Mexico and Guatemala split the golds, with the former's Paula Lopez winning the 100 fly (1:03.33) and the latter's Gisela Maria Morales touching numero uno in the 100 back (1:06.17).
Venezuela's Silvia Rodriguez (1:03.78) and Mexico's Teresa Lopez ( 1:03.91) were second and third in the fly while Mexico's Tatiana Maristany (1:06.80) and Venezuela's Maria Carolina Rivera (1:07.20) were second and third in the 100 back.
Maristany led at the 50 (32.09-32.26) but couldn't quite keep with her Guatemalan foe's pace for the second 50.
The Games' record in the 100 fly belongs to Trinidadian Siobhan Cropper, who clocked 1:03.01 in '98. The record in the 100 back belongs to former Costa Rica star Sylvia Poll (1:04.43) from the '86 competition.
Sylvia Poll is of course one-half of the famed Poll sisters' duo. She still holds Latin American records in the backstrokes — 1:01.86 leading off the medley relay at the '87 Pan-Ams in Indianapolis; and 2:11.66 from the Barcelona Olympics a decade ago.
Claudia, a freestyler who is without question the most succesful Latin American woman swimmer in history in terms of international success, was Atlanta Olympic gold medalist in the 200 free. She holds Central-South American records in every freestyle event from 100 through 800 meters (55.62, 1:57.48, 4:06.56, 8:29.05). Poll's also the world record-holder in the 400 free (sc meters) with her 4:00.03 from the '97 World Championships in Sweden.
The Games continue through Friday with the men's 200 fly and 50 free and the women's 200 IM and 800 free finals set for this evening, along with the prelims of the men's mile.
– Bill Bell