Yarisley Silva, winner of the pole vault at the Pan American Games (© Getty Images)
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva produced her best performance in two years with a world-leading 4.85m to successfully defend her pole vault title on Thursday (23) at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
In one of the deepest field in the athletics tournament, the women’s pole vault featured a mouth-watering final comprising three global champions: world indoor champion Silva, USA’s Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil.
Suhr was the first one to end her competition after three failed attempt at 4.65m, having to settle for bronze with 4.60m. Silva and Murer both skipped 4.65m and then cleared 4.70m on their first attempts.
Silva then equalled her Games record of 4.75m on her second attempt. With two failures at 4.75m, Murer went for 4.80m and cleared it. Silva also responded on her first to regain the lead.
With the bar at 4.85m, Murer failed three times and Silva cleared it on her third try to emerge victorious over the Brazilian for the second time at the Pan American Games. Winner of the 2007 Games at home in Rio, Murer had to be content with silver again.
“This is one of the most exciting victories because the best in the world were here,” said Olympic silver medallist Silva, who became only the second athlete to successfully defend their crown from Guadalajara 2011.
“Last night I was very nervous but I finally won the gold. I want to say thanks to my coach, sponsors, doctors and all my people in Cuba. Now I have to prepare for the Olympics because it will be one of the most exciting events there.”
In the men’s 200m semifinal, Commonwealth champion Rasheed Dwyer erased the Games’ oldest record of 19.86, set by his countryman Don Quarrie in 1971. In lane five, Dwyer clocked 19.80 to become the fourth-fastest Jamaican in history and the world’s 18th fastest man ever at the distance.
The second semi-final was won by 2009 world silver medallist Alonso Edward (20.09), the same time as Cuba’s defending champion Roberto Skyers. Canada’s 100m winner Andre De Grasse also advanced to Friday’s final in third with 20.12.
Dominica Republic’s Luguelin Santos peaked when it mattered most to win the 400m gold in a season’s best of 44.56, ahead of Trinidad and Tobago’s world junior champion Machel Cedenio (44.70).
USA’s world indoor bronze medallist Kyle Clemons edged Costa Rica’s defending champion Nery Brenes for bronze by 0.01, breaking the 45-second barrier for the first time with 44.84.
“This achievement is not just mine. It’s my mother’s, my daughter’s, my brother’s, my country’s; all my loved ones,” said Santos, who first broke the 45-second barrier when he finished second at the 2011 Pan American Games while still a junior. “Yesterday the people (supporters) had a good vibe going. I thank the crowd for their support and everyone who wished me good luck.”
World junior champion Kendall Baisden became the first US woman since 1979 to win the Pan American 400m title. She finished strongly to win in 51.27, ahead of Shakima Wimbley (51.36) and Kineke Alexander (51.50), who led with 50m to go. Alexander found consolation by giving St Vincent and the Grenadines its second Pan American medal in any sport and the first one in 20 years.
Mexico’s Brenda Flores saved her sprint for the final home stretch of the 10,000m to take gold in a Games record of 32:41.33, two days after winning the 5000m silver.
The men’s 400m hurdles was another dramatic final in which Javier Culson was hoping to win Puerto Rico’s second Pan American athletics title ever and the first one in 32 years.
Running in lane eight, Culson entered the homestretch with a narrow lead over Jeffery Gibson. But the Bahamian found an extra gear and moved away from Culson after the last hurdle to take gold in a national record of 48.51. Culson had to settle again for second with 48.67. Jamaica’s fast-finishing Roxroy Cato edged USA’s Kerron Clement to win bronze, both timed at 48.72.
Eight finals will be staged on Friday at York University. Some of the top attractions include Cuba’s world leader Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump and USA’s David Oliver in the 110m hurdles.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF