Yorgelis Rodriguez at the 2015 Pan American Games (© Getty Images)
Yorgelis Rodriguez brought the Pan American heptathlon title back to Cuba in commanding fashion by breaking the 16-year-old Games record, set by her compatriot Magalys Garcia, with a personal best total of 6332 in Toronto on Saturday (25).
Leading by 63 points at the end of day one, the 2012 world junior champion produced a season’s best in the long jump (6.25m) and javelin (48.32m), both marks being close to her personal bests, and increased her lead by almost 300 points.
With 5536 points heading into the last event, Rodriguez needed run 2:20.51 to erase the Cuban record of 6352 set by Garcia in 1996. A 2:25 run or faster would also allow her to break the Games mark of 6290 set by Garcia in Winnipeg back in 1999.
Rodriguez could not run faster than 2:22.01 so she missed the Cuban record by 20 points, but she was still delighted with the outcome.
"I'm very, very happy," said Rodriguez, who moved to the lead of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge with her win. "Not just for coming to the Pan Am Games and wining this gold medal, but also for having improved almost all my scores this year. I'm also super, super happy to have another Cuban breaking a Pan-American record."
USA’s Heather Miller finished strongly with her 800m victory in 2:12.57 to secure the silver medal with 6178, ahead of Brazil’s Ibero-American champion Vanessa Spinola, who was third with 6035.
In fourth place, South American champion Evelis Aguilar improved her Colombian record to 5930. Trailing in fourth place after day one, Canada’s 2007 Pan American champion Jessica Zelinka did not start on the second day.
Drouin keeps the home fans happy
World and Olympic high jump medallist Derek Drouin got Canada’s only win on Saturday, taking the gold medal with a season’s best of 2.37m, before unsuccessfully attempting to improve his national record to 2.41m.
Drouin’s countryman Mike Mason was second with 2.31m and The Bahamas’ 2007 world and defending Pan American champion Donald Thomas had to settle for third this time with 2.28m.
However, the night ended with heartbreak for the Canadian men's squad in the 4x100m.
After crossing the finish line first in 38.06, the team of Gavin Smellie, Andre De Grasse, Brendon Rodney and Aaron Brown was disqualified as Smellie was later assessed to have stepped on the line.
The USA quartet was moved to gold with 38.27, ahead of Brazil (38.68) and Trinidad and Tobago (38.69).
Antigua and Barbuda, who improved the Games record to 38.14 in the semi-finals on Friday, were disqualified for a baton exchange zone violation.
The disqualification prevented 100m and 200m winner Andre De Grasse from becoming only the second man in Pan American Games history to win the sprint triple crown, following Jamaica’s Don Quarrie at the 1971 Games in Cali.
Sweet taste of success for Barrios
Earlier, in his fourth Pan American Games, Mexico’s two-time Olympic 5000m finalist Juan Luis Barrios became the third athlete to successfully defend his title from the 2011 Games in Toronto by taking the 5000m in 13:46.47.
With a well-timed sprint, Barrios overtook USA’s David Torrence in the final few metres to win his fifth medal in four Pan American Games, after the 10,000m bronze on Tuesday.
Torrence was second in 13:46.60 while Chile’s South American champion Victor Anibal Aravena took the bronze medal in a personal best of 13:46.94.
“The Pan American gold is the sweetest performance I have ever had as an athlete," said Barrios. "I made sure I was well placed throughout the whole race. I did not make the same mistakes as in the 10000m. I was watching my rivals’ shoulders very closely and waited the right moment to attack with 100 metres to go."
Before Toronto 2015, Trinidad and Tobago had not won a single gold medal in athletics at the Pan American Games but that changed this week at York University.
After field event wins by Cleopatra Borel and Keshorn Walcott, the week ended on a high note with the victory in the men’s 4x400m in 2:59.60.
World junior champion and 400m silver medallist here, Machel Cedenio, ran past Cuban Yoandys Lescay in the last 20 metres to take their third athletics gold in Toronto. Renny Quow, Emmanual Mayers and Jarrin Solomon also made up the squad.
After being initially disqualified, defending champions Cuba were reinstated and finished second with 2:59.84, their fastest time since the 2011 Games. Kerron Clement overtook The Bahamas’ anchor and 400m hurdles winner Jeffrey Gibson to take bronze in 3:00.21, with the Caribbean quartet fourth in 3:00.34.
The USA regained the women’s 4x400m crown with 3:25.68.
Colombia also had a moment of joy when Central American and Caribbean champion Muriel Coneo took the 1500m final in a national record of 4:09.05, ahead of home crowd favourite and 2010 world indoor silver medallist Nicole Sifuentes, who was second in 4:09.13.
Cuba’s Richer Perez won the first athletics gold of the day by taking the marathon title in a personal best of 2:17:04, and has now won all three marathons he has entered.
Early on Sunday the 47th and last athletics gold medal was won by Ecuador's Andres Chocho, who took the 50km race walk title in 3:50.13, finishing more than five minutes in front of Guatemala's Erick Barrondo.
Chocho started to open up a lead over his rivals in the 19th kilometre and was never headed.
The USA topped the athletics medal table with 41 medals – 13 gold, 14 silver and 14 bronze – followed by Canada (11-7-8) and Cuba (5-3-1).
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF