Jeffery Henderson produced a world-leading 8.52m in the long jump while Melissa Bishop and Andre de Grasse bagged more gold medals for hosts Canada on Wednesday (22) at the Pan American Games in Toronto’s York University stadium.
Coming to Toronto as the world leader, Henderson took an early lead with 8.54m, assisted by a 4.1m/s tailwind. When the wind calmed down, he sealed his victory with a wind-legal world-leading 8.52m in the sixth and final round.
“I just wanted to get my performance down,” said Henderson, who took USA’s first title in the men’s long jump at the Pan American Games since Carl Lewis’ victory in 1987. “I came out with a win; that’s all I wanted to do. I wasn’t worried about the competition even though it was great competition. World Championships are next for me. That’s my next focus.”
Another world leader, world junior and NCAA champion Shamier Little, also confirmed her pre-race favourite status by taking the 400m hurdles in 55.50.
After a 16-year hiatus, Uruguay returned to the podium with two bronze medals by South American champions: Deborah Rodriguez in the 400m hurdles and Emiliano Lasa in the long jump.
The local crowd was pleased with superb performances by Melissa Bishop in the 800m and Andre de Grasse in the 100m as well as world bronze medallist Damian Warner, who leads the decathlon with 4460 points after day one.
Trailing Cuba’s early leader Rose Mary Almanza and USA’s 2010 world indoor bronze medallist Alysia Montano with 120m to go, Bishop unleashed her sprint and overtook the latter in the final meters to take the most important victory of her career in 1:59.62, just 0.1 shy of the PB she set recently in Lucerne.
Brazil’s Flavia de Lima ran past fading Almanza and finished strong to secure the bronze medal with a personal best of 2:00.40. Almanza, the second-fastest woman in the world in 2015, had to settle for fourth in 2:01.82, the same placing she had in Guadalajara 2011.
Born in Markham, in the outskirts of Toronto, De Grasse pleased the home crowd with a narrow 100m win in 10.05, the first one for a Canadian in the men’s 100m at the Pan Am Games since 1967, when the country first hosted the Games. Ramon Gittens of Barbados and Antoine Adams of Saint Kitts and Nevis joined him on the podium, clocking 10.07 and 10.09 respectively.
“Somehow, I just managed to pull off the win,” said the double NCAA champion, who will also run the 200m. “I had no pressure, my family and friends told me that no matter what happens, they are still proud of me. It has been a long season, and to do this, it is a wonderful feeling right now.”
In the women’s race, Sherone Simpson broke the 11-second barrier for the first time since taking silver at the 2008 Olympics to become the first Jamaican woman ever to take the Pan American 100m title.
Running in lane eight, she finished strong with 10.95 to prevail over Ecuador’s Angela Tenorio, who also made history as she became the first South American woman to run faster than 11 seconds, clocking 10.99. Still a junior, Tenorio now moves to fourth on the world junior all-time list.
USA’s 2011 Pan American Games silver medallist Barbara Pierre, who set a Games record of 10.92 in the heats on Tuesday, had to settle for bronze in 11.01, ahead of Brazil’s defending champion Rosangela Santos (11.04) and Trinidad and Tobago’s 2011 world bronze medallist Kelly-Ann Baptiste (11.05).
In the field, Cleopatra Borel and Lavern Spencer made history as they gave Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Lucia their first athletics gold medals in the history of the continental event.
In her third Pan American Games, Spencer equalled her season’s best of 1.94m on her third attempt to win the women’s high jump, the first gold medal for Saint Lucia in any sport in the history of the Games.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Priscilla Frederick improved her national record to 1.91m for silver, the same height of one of the most versatile athletes in the continent: world junior long jump champion and NCAA heptathlon champion Akela Jones, who also improved the Barbadian record.
In the women’s shot put, 2004 Olympic finalist Borel opened her series with 18.39m and improved to the winning mark of 18.67m in the second round. USA’s Jill Camarena-Williams came within two centimetres of the Trinidadian in the last round and had to settle for silver, ahead of Chile’s Natalia Duco (18.01m).
“I have a complete set now,” said Borel. “I have a bronze from Rio (Rio 2007 Pan Am Games) and a silver from Mexico (Guadalajara 2011 Pan Am Games). I feel good going into Worlds. With today’s performance, I feel like I am in a good place.”
USA’s Kibwe Johnson became the first athlete to successfully defend his title from Guadalajara 2011 by taking the hammer title with a fifth-round effort 75.46m. Runner-up Roberto Janet gave Cuba its first athletics medal in Toronto.
In other events, two-time Olympic champion Felix Sanchez – competing at his fifth Pan American Games – did not advance to the 400m hurdles final after finishing fourth in his semi-final. Puerto Rico’s world and Olympic medallist Javier Culson and USA’s two-time world champion Kerron Clement will be the top two favourites for gold.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF