INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 9 -- "We thought it was important to be here, to put a good show in, it being the first time in the Pan Ams," said Norman Dean Bellingham of Rockville, Md., after he won the first gold medal of the Pan American Games today. He defeated Cuba's Luis Perez in the 500-meter kayak singles, opening event in kayaking's debut as a Pan Am sport.

Bellingham finished the K-1 race at 9:01 a.m. with a time of 1:49.00. He and Perez paddled away from the rest of the field early, and Bellingham made his move to take the lead at the halfway mark. Perez got home in 1:54.06.

"He was pretty close. I was getting a little stressed out," Bellingham said.

Bellingham, at 6 feet 4 and 202 pounds, is the biggest member of the U.S. canoe/kayak team. He was originally a white-water kayaker but switched to flat water because it's an Olympic sport. In 1985 he went to New Zealand to learnwith the top competition in the world; the New Zealanders won four of five gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics.

The 22-year-old Marylander did not have time to enjoy his victory on the scene. He leaves early Monday morning for the World Championships in Duisburg, West Germany. His prospects there are good; in 1986 he finished sixth in the K-1 500.

"Five guys there are all pretty close," he said. "We all have a chance to win. That will be a nasty race, good fun."

Weightlifters are hearing an incongruous sound during their event: the gentle murmur of a harp.

Organizers decided to give the musclebound sport a touch of elegance by holding it at the Indianapolis Circle Theatre, home of the symphony orchestra. A harpist in the second-floor lobby serenades spectators as they take their seats.

Ferguson Jenkins, a 1971 Cy Young Award winner who retired in 1984, turned up as the pitching coach for his native Canada after running for public office there and losing.

After his failed bid to represent Windsor in the Ontario provincial government, the obvious question today was whether Jenkins was using his coaching position as a possible springboard back to organized baseball in a managerial capacity.

"I haven't thought about it," he said. "Because I'd like to stay in Canada and see my young family grow up. I'd like to finish with this young team, possibly go to the Olympics next year."