2019 Pan American Games Finals Day 5 Recap: U.S. Finishes On A High Note, Rakes In Five Golds

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After a thrilling four days of competition, the 2019 Pan American Games kicked off its final night with an interesting slate of events. Despite the session’s light schedule featuring only four individual events and two relays, each race was dense with talent, making for a climactic grand finale in Lima. With the U.S. and Brazil rewriting history all week long, this intracontinental showdown managed to make noise even in the aftermath of the World Championships.

Raking in five gold medals, the United States ran away with the final night of competition, seizing a Pan American record on its way out. Showcasing its depth and versatility, America has proven itself to be the strongest swimming nation in the west. With Brazil nipping at its heels, there’s no doubt that the coming year will be full of surprises, as the swimming community prepares for one of the most awaited summers in the sport’s history.

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Women’s 1500 Free

In true form, Argentina’s distance stalwart Delfina Pignatiello stole away with the win in the women’s 1500 free, clocking in at 16:16.54 to better Kristel Kobrich Shimpl’s (16:18.19) mark by over a second and a half. Pignatiello holds the tenth fastest time in the world this year, which she set earlier this summer at the Mare Nostrum Series in Barcelona. Coming off a decisive 800 free win earlier this week, the Argentinian is poised to make some international noise in the coming year.

Rebecca Mann managed to tally another medal for the United States, as her time of 16:23.23 was good enough for third. The University of Southern California senior was able to acquire a healthy lead over compatriot Mariah Denigan (16:27.50), a Kentucky native headed into her junior year of high school. The Class of 2021 youngster still forced her name on the scene despite missing the podium, touching ahead of Brazil’s Viviane Jungblut (16:30.00) and Mexico’s Ayumi Macías (16:35.34) in order to lock down fourth. Brazil’s second-in-command distance weapon, Ana Marcela Cunha, clocked in at 16:39.83 for seventh, gaining a commanding lead over María García (17:13.27) of Peru.

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Women’s 200 IM

In contrast to the fate predicted by the heat sheets, Alex Walsh of the United States landed on the top step of the podium after the women’s 200 IM, but not without a brutal battle with top seed (and teammate) Meghan Small (2:11.36). Walsh managed to maintain a slight lead at the back to breast transition, but after the women split identical breaststroke legs going into the final turn, it appeared as if the gold medal was up for grabs. While it was Walsh who gained the final advantage, Small certainly made her presence known in lane four, surging ahead of Canada’s Bailey Anderson (2:14.14) with relative ease.

Mexico’s Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo created outside smoke in lane 2, crashing the pads with a 2:15.13 for fourth ahead of McKenna Debever (2:15.48) from Peru. Canada’s Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson conceded a spot in the top five by a narrow margin, beating out Brazil’s Camila de Melo (2:17.22) and Argentina’s Virginia Martin (2:18.54) for sixth.

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Men’s 200 IM

Will Licon (1:59.13) cinched the United States’ second consecutive gold of the night with a decisive victory in the men’s 200 IM. Fending off Brazil’s Caio Pumputis (2:00.12), Licon was the only man in the field under 2:00. As the sole American in the meet’s penultimate individual final, Licon felt the pressure to rake in points to pad his country’s lead, putting forth one of the most impressive performances this week. Leonardo Santos came within striking distance of the silver, but ultimately fell to his compatriot with a time of 2:00.29.

Ecuador’s Tomas Peribonio headed the second wave with a time of 2:01.25, demonstrating impressive back-end speed to score fourth. Angel Martinez chased him, turning in the fastest freestyle leg in the heat to finish with a 2:02.08. Tyler Christianson made Panama’s first debut in an A-final, clocking in at 2:03.25 to gain a healthy advantage over Canada’s Carlos Acevedo (2:04.23) and Aruba’s Patrick Groters (2:06.21).

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Men’s 1500 Free

The U.S. and Brazil have seemingly traded wins event to event all meet long, and tonight was no exception. With two American victories preceding him, Nicholas Sweetser immediately felt pressure to make it three. With Brazil’s Guilherme Pereira da Costa in the picture, that proved to be an exceedingly difficult task. Attaining a commanding lead from the outset, Costa quickly established his dominance, surging home to a 15:09.93 for the wi after splitting a near perfect race. Sweetser remained at his hip, ultimately clocking in at 15:14.24 for silver to edge out Mexico’s Ricardo Vargas Jacobo (15:14.99).

El Salvador forced its name back on the scene with an impressive performance from Marcelo Alberto Acosta Jimenez (15:21.03), whose stellar ability to maintain speed earned him a spot ahead of America’s Andrew Abruzzo (15:22.93) and Brazil’s Diogo Andrade Villarinho.

Rafel Davila Zambrano led the final wave, turning in a 15:36.63 to tally more points for his country, while Martin Miguel Carrizo Yunges sent the meet into relays with a final time of 15:36.63.

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Women’s 400 Medley Relay

Just a few short weeks ago, the U.S. women’s relay team of Reagan Smith, Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia, and Simone Manuel reset the world record in the 400 medley relay, stunning the swim community and attracting attention from across the globe. Known for its depth across all events, the United States is consistently able to put up lethal quartets every time it competes on the international stage, and today was no exception. With the fresh combination of Phoebe Bacon, Annie Lazor, Kendyl Stewart, and Margo Geer, the Americans found themselves on top once again with a time of 3:57.74. The women upheld their country’s status with grace, cruising to the victory despite tough competition in Danielle Hanus, Faith Knelson, Haley Black, and Alexia Zevnik of Canada (4:01.90).

Brazil seized the final spot in the top three, clocking in at 4:04.96 courtesy of Etiene Medeiros, Jhennifer Conceicao, Giovanna Diamante, and Larissa Martins de Oliveira.

While the Americans came within striking distance of the Pan Am record (3:56.63) set in 2015, they were ultimately forced to conclude the women’s schedule by leaving it untouched, tallying the United States’ third gold of the evening nonetheless.

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Men’s 400 Medley Relay

In one of the most exciting races of the meet, the two Pan Am powerhouses squared off in a battle for the last word through the men’s 400 medley relay. Daniel Carr, Nicolas Fink, Thomas Shields, and Nathan Adrian of the United States (3:30.25) combined forces to ultimately take down Brazil’s deadly quartet, but it would take a Pan American record to do so. Falling behind after the first 100, the U.S. had some ground to cover in the breaststroke and fly legs, especially as the men prepared for Brazil’s marquee sprinter, Marcelo Chierghini, at anchor. In true form, Fink and Shields delivered, giving Adrian an adequate advantage headed into the final 100, where the men not only took down their Brazilian rivals, but also shattered the country’s Pan Am record from 2015.

Had the Americans not had such an incredible performance, Brazil’s team of Guilherme Gido, Joao Gomes, Vinivius Moreira, and Marcelo Chierghini would have also slashed the previous Pan Am record with their time of 3:30.98, over a second and a half faster than the previous mark.

The two teams ran away from the rest of the field, as Agustin Hernandez, Gabriel Morelli, Santiago Grassi, and Federico Grabich took third honors for Argentina with a time of 3:38.41. A case study for the unraveling of the entire meet, this event left spectators giddy for the coming year, as the summer season comes to a close and ushers in some of the most anticipated months of competition to date.

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