Ecuadorian Jefferson Pérez highlighted the first day of athletics competitions of the XV Pan-American Games of Rio de Janeiro, by winning the 20Km Race Walk in 1:22:08 yesterday (22 July).
For the 33-year-old from Cuenca, this is the third title at the games. Pérez is also a two-time World champion (2003-05), 1996 Olympic champion, and the distance’s World Record holder (1:17:21).
The race started at 15:00 local time in Rio, under a sunny sky and intense heat. The circuit was set at the “Parque do Flamengo”, near the Copacabana area, by the coastal part of the city.
Pérez dominated from the first moment and never left the head of the race. His lap times (at even Km) were: 8:34; 16:56; 25:11; 33:35; 42:03 (for 10Km); 50:34; 58:40; 1:06:23 and 1:14:14. His rhythm increased to 40:05 in the second half, and his last 6Km was covered in 23:28.
“Winning something for my country is always something very special”, said Pérez after crossing the finish line. This is his fourth medal at the Games, after 3 golds (1995, ’03, ’07) and a bronze (’99). Now Pérez will head to Europe for his final preparations for the Osaka World Championships.
In a historic day for Ecuador, Ronaldo Saquipay finished in second place in 1:23:28, a season’s best, while Colombian Gustavo Adolfo Restrepo was third in 1:24:51.
It wasn’t such a good race for Mexico, one of the race walking powerhouses of the Americans. Its 2 representatives at the men’s 20Km, Cristian Berdeja and Erick Guevera, were disqualified after 14 and 18 kms respectively.
Mariela González wins Marathon
The first event of the programme was the women’s Marathon, held in the morning hours, when the heat was even more intense. Under those conditions, Cuban Mariela González was the best, winning in 2:43:11.
Brazilians Márcia Narloch and Sirlene Pinho were second and third with 2:45:10 and 2:47:36. Pinho passed the half point in 1:18:27, but was overtaken by González shortly before the 35th km (2:12:27). The 33-year-old Cuban had been second in Santo Domingo two years before, also under tough conditions, on that occasion Narloch had been the winner.
Historic medal for El Salvador
Cristina Esmeralda López gave her country, El Salvador, many reasons to celebrate after winning the country’s first ever medal at the Games, in the 20Km Race Walking. The race was decided in a very dramatic finish.
López, whose 3-year-old daughter Mónica Michelle undergoing medical treatment for a cancer in her right leg, crossed the line in 1:38:59.
“God’s with me, and I have lots of faith”, said the champion, who also had a problem in her back by March.
The leading group went by the 10Km mark in 48:50. It was composed by López, Ecuador’s Miriam Ramón, Mexico’s María Esther Sánchez, Guatemala’s Evelin Nuñez, Bolivia’s Geovana Irusta and Colombian Sandra Zapata. By the 18th, only Irusta and Nuñez were accompanying López.
Shortly before 19Km, Nuñez was disqualified. López went clear and crossed the line 8 seconds ahead of Irusta, who then was also disqualified.
Miriam Ramón picked up the silver medal with 1:40:03, and María Esther Sánchez was third with 1:41:47.
The triumph from López cuts the Mexican hegemony at the distance. Since the race walking events for women were staged at the Games (Indianapolis ’87), Mexican athletes had always won.
Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF
1. Jefferson Pérez ECU 1:22:08
2. Rolando Saquipay ECU 1:23:28
3. Gustavo Restrepo COL 1:24.51
4. Mario dos Santos BRA 1:29.53
5. Matthew Boyles USA 1:30:03
6. Allan Segura CRC 1:32:27
7. John Nunn USA 1:32:37
8. José Alessandro Bagio BRA 1:34:15
1. Mariela González CUB 2:43:11
2. Marcia Narloch BRA 2:45:10
3. Sirlene Pinho BRA 2:47:36
4. Jessica Rodríguez CUB 2:48:11
5. Yailén García CUB 2:49:52
6. Ruby Riativa COL 2:51:35
7. Chris Lundy USA 2:51:56
8. Emily Mortensen USA 3:02:00
1. Cristina López ESA 1:38:59
2. Miriam Ramón ECU 1:40.03
3. María Esther Sánchez MEX 1:41.47
4. Tânia Spindler BRA 1:42.15
5. María del Rosario Sánchez MEX 1:42.47
6. Sandra Zapata COL 1:43:44
7. Yadira Guamán ECU 1:46:06
(only 7 finishers)