“We had a meeting about winning the gold,” American swimmer Elizabeth Pelton said after finishing first in the women’s 200-meter backstroke, the final swimming event of the night. “Definitely was the goal for tonight.”
Besides Pelton’s victory, the United States also earned its sixth shooting gold of the games and 12th medal in the sport when Glenn Eller won the men’s double trap.
Although gold was tough to find in Mexico on Thursday, the medals still came. With 19 medal events on the program, Americans won 16 medals overall to increase their lead at the top of the table.
The United States now has 34 gold and 98 overall, while Brazil remains in second place with 13 gold and 41 overall. The Brazilians can still add another gold medal to their tally when the women’s volleyball team faces defending champion Cuba in the final later Thursday. The U.S. women won the bronze.
Pelton avoided an American whitewash at the top of the swimming podium by winning the evening’s final gold. Her winning time of 2 minutes, 8.99 seconds bettered the previous Pan American Games record of 2:10.57, set by American swimmer Teresa Crippen four years ago in Rio de Janeiro. Teammate Bonnie Brandon earned silver.
The American women have excelled in the swimming pool. Entering Thursday’s session they had won all but one of the gold medals, but Ashley McGregor of Canada took the women’s 200 breaststroke.
“I don’t think we are lacking at all as far as energy goes, but it’s been a long meet,” said American swimmer Michelle McKeehan, who won bronze in that race behind teammate Haley Spencer. “And it’s a long meet at the Olympics, too, so hopefully we can just take this and learn from it to try to keep our energy very high.”
Also, Olympic champion Cesar Cielo won another “splash and dash” gold medal, defending his title in the men’s 50-meter freestyle. The Brazilian won in a Pan American Games record 21.58 seconds.
“I had a target to swim as close as I could or better than I did in the world championships,” said Cielo, who is a two-time world champion in the event and also won Olympic gold in Beijing. “I wasn’t thinking about the record, I just wanted to improve my time and try to do the best I could.”
It was Cielo’s third gold medal of this year’s games. He also won the 100 freestyle and helped Brazil take gold in the 400 relay.
Albert Subirats of Venezuela won the men’s 100 butterfly, followed by Eugene Godsoe in second and Chris Brady in third.
“I’ve been looking up to Albert for a long time,” Godsoe said. “I’m humbled. I’m proud. But I’m coming for him next time.”
Canada and Cuba won the most golds on the day, with the Canadians claiming five and Cuba sweeping all four of the day’s Greco-Roman wrestling titles.
In softball, the six-time defending champion Americans gave up five runs in the first inning but still beat Canada 12-5 to improve their record to 6-0.
“As long as I have been coaching Team USA and been involved with this program, I don’t think we have ever been down 5 and come back against a quality team like Canada,” U.S. head coach Ken Eriksen said. “I thought our kids kept their heads on really well.”
The Americans, who close out the preliminaries against Argentina on Friday, are the No. 1-seeded team heading into the playoff round. The semifinals are set for Saturday and the final is Sunday.
American tennis player Irina Falconi advanced to the women’s final early Thursday, beating Florencia Molinero of Argentina 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals.
“There were a lot of ups and downs for both of us, a lot of changes in momentum,” Falconi said. “I think I could’ve served better, could’ve been a bit more consistent. But against these players it’s never easy.”
In Friday’s final, Falconi will face Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, who beat Christina McHale of the United States 7-6 (2), 6-4.