Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Olympics [Print without images]

Saturday, October 15, 2011
U.S. wins four golds in swimming

Associated Press

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The United States was awash with medals on the opening day of the Pan American Games, with nine of its 14 coming in the swimming pool alone.

The Americans moved to the top of the medals table from the opening event when Heather Irmiger won the women's cross-country mountain bike race. They just added more and more as the day went on, ending up with seven gold. Brazil was second with one gold and seven overall.

"While it was a great first day, there is a lot of games left," said Scott Blackmun, the U.S. Olympic Committee's secretary general. "We are very proud of our athletes and look forward to some great competitions as the games go on."

Clare Donahue won the first of four swimming gold medals for the United States, finishing first in the 100-meter butterfly. Her winning time of 58.73 seconds was a tad slower than her Pan American Games record of 58.59 set in the heats earlier in the day.

Elaine Breeden took the bronze, just behind Daynara De Paula of Brazil.

In the 400 individual medleys, Americans won four of the six medals. Julia Smit won gold in the women's race and Allysa Vavra took bronze. For the men, Conor Dwyer and Robert Margalis took silver and bronze behind Thiago Pereira, a Brazilian who won six gold medals in Rio four years ago to break Mark Spitz's record for most golds in one Pan Am Games.

"I trained a lot for the Pan American Games," said Dwyer, who won his heat ahead of Pereira in the morning session, "didn't even have time to rest."

Two more medals came in the men's 400 freestyle, with Charles Houchin earning gold and defending champion Matthew Patton settling for silver. A final gold for Madison Kennedy, Elizabeth Pelton, Amanda Kendall and Erika Erndl came in the women's 400 relay.

The relay team set a Pan Am Games record in the heats, and then broke that record in the final, winning in 3:40.66.

Although the Americans set two championship records in the pool, the altitude in Guadalajara should keep times relatively slow. Mexico's second city is about 5,000 feet above sea level.

The United States has traditionally dominated the Pan American Games, which have been staged every four years since the first competition in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951.

This edition is proving no different.

Irmiger won the competition's first gold on the mountain bike in the women's race, and Jeremiah Bishop added a bronze in the men's event a few hours later.

"The course was perfect for me," said Irmiger, who took the lead from the first lap on the 24.8-kilometer circuit and won in 1:34:09. "I enjoyed the technical sustained climb and navigating my way through the cobbled streets lined with yelling fans."

Defending champion Hector Paez of Colombia won the gold medal in the men's race, followed by Max Plaxton of Canada. Bishop was third.

"It was an aggressive race," said Bishop, who won Pan Am gold in 2003. "I went full gas right from the start to put pressure on the others."

In modern pentathlon, Margaux Isaksen took gold with 5,356 points, while American teammate Julie Zetlin won the individual all-around in rhythmic gymnastics.

Isaksen, a 2008 Olympian, won the opening fencing event, and then finished second to silver medalist Yane Marques of Brazil in the 200-meter freestyle swim and the show jump. But she again finished first in the concluding combined event, which consists of a three-kilometer run with breaks for shooting.

Isaksen earned a quota spot for the 2012 London Olympics and will be on the United States team unless two Americans pass her in the world rankings, according to the USOC.

In taekwondo, Yulis Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic defeated Damian Villa of Mexico to win the men's under-58 kilogram title. In the women's under-49, Ivett Gonda of Canada beat Lizbeth Diez of Peru to win gold.

The United States earned a bronze when Derieanne Morales lost to Gonda in the semifinals.

Not everything was rosy for the Americans, however.

In women's handball, the U.S. was routed 50-10 by tournament-favorite Brazil. The Americans, who can qualify for the 2012 London Olympics by winning the title in Guadalajara, can still advance to the semifinals by winning their next two matches against the Dominican Republic on Monday and Uruguay on Wednesday.

"We can definitely play with the next two teams," said Jennifer Fithian, who scored a goal against Brazil. "We are excited and we will watch the tape tonight and get the game plan ready."

Although the games have been problem-free, federal police increased security at the athletes' village on Saturday. Besides more road blocks, a helicopter has been flying over the village every half hour.

Drug violence has been blamed for the deaths of at least 35,000 people since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime in late 2006.