The Pan American Games, a continental multi-sport event held every four years, are usually scheduled in the summer months to coincide with the Olympic cycle. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 19th edition of the games was postponed from 2022 to 2023 and moved from October to November in Santiago, Chile.
This meant that most of the top track and field athletes in the world, who had just competed at the World Championships in September, were taking a much deserved vacation. But for some U.S. athletes, who were selected to represent their country at the Pan American Games, this was an opportunity to showcase their talents on a big stage and win some medals to take back home.
Knevelbaard wins gold in 5,000-meter race after Mexican runner disqualified
One of the U.S. athletes who benefited from the late season was Kasey Knevelbaard, a 27-year-old distance runner from California. He was the unofficial winner of the men’s 5,000-meter race on Tuesday, after Fernando Martinez of Mexico, who crossed the finish line first, was disqualified for stepping out of his lane.
Knevelbaard clocked 14 minutes, 47.69 seconds in the cold Santiago weather, almost two minutes longer than the American record set by Grant Fisher last September in Brussels. He said he found out he would be racing in Santiago in the middle of September, after a very long season.
“It’s challenging, but I don’t want to be someone who’s afraid of not doing anything. You don’t want to miss out on opportunities,” Knevelbaard told The Associated Press. “I had a conversation with my coach. I said I really wanted to do this. He said we were not going to prepare for it, so I was going to have to do it off our normal training.”
He added that he was grateful that he and other athletes got the chance to compete at the Pan American Games, despite the unusual timing. “A lot of people are in the same boat, like we’re all kind of just testing to see what we can do,” he said.
Knevelbaard, who frequently trains in the mountains in Flagstaff, Arizona, said he would not take a vacation after his gold medal performance. “I’m gonna to do about a month of training and I think I’ll run an indoor 5-kilometers in about a month. I hope I go after a fast time. And if not, you know, just get a really good block of training is the goal,” he said.
Talbot claims bronze in decathlon with personal best score
Another U.S. athlete who impressed at the Pan American Games was Ryan Talbot, a 23-year-old decathlete from Michigan. He won the bronze medal in the men’s decathlon on Tuesday, with a personal best score of 8,032 points.
Talbot said he felt competing so late in the season was crazy, but also rewarding. “Not a lot of people are wanting to do it. So it gives a good chance for a lot of people who are coming up in the sport to experience a big stage like this, especially in track and field and especially for the decathlon,” he said.
Talbot also found out only a few months ago that he was coming to Chile. He said he enjoyed competing with other athletes who were willing to push themselves beyond their limits. “Everybody here, they are warriors. This is so hard, but I enjoyed it all the whole time,” he said.
Talbot, who is also a college student at Michigan State University, said he would rest a little after his bronze medal feat, but then start training again for the indoor season. “We will rest a little, but then start training again for college. The indoor season begins soon,” he said.
Other U.S. track and field medalists at Pan American Games
The U.S. track and field team won a total of 18 medals at the Pan American Games, including six golds, six silvers and six bronzes. Some of the other notable medalists were:
- Courtney Frerichs, who won the gold medal in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:38.52.
- Rachel Schneider, who won the gold medal in the women’s 10,000-meter race with a time of 32:12.29.
- Michael Cherry, who won the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 44.86 seconds.
- Anna Cockrell, who won the gold medal in the women’s 400-meter hurdles with a time of 54.68 seconds.
- Quanesha Burks, who won the silver medal in the women’s long jump with a distance of 6.68 meters.
- Zach Ziemek, who won the silver medal in the men’s decathlon with a score of 8,099 points.
The U.S. track and field team finished second in the medal table behind Brazil, who won 20 medals, including eight golds, six silvers and six bronzes.