© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
The track and field portion of the 2015 Toronto Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games begins Monday with a full day of competition in a broad range of events. Athletics started on Friday with road competitions with the women’s marathon race, which was then followed by the men’s and women’s race-walk in the 20-kilometre distance event on Saturday, where Canada won both gold and silver, thanks to Evan Dunfee and Inaki Gomez’s excellent performances. Sunday was a day off from competition.
Beginning Monday at 10:05 EST or 1:05 PST the women’s javelin throw kicks of the day’s events, followed five minutes later by the women’s 5,000m distance race. Canadian Jessica O’Connell, Americans Kellyn Taylor and Alisha Williams and Mexican Marisol Romero appear to be the frontrunners for medals. The top-nine athletes are all competitive. The 5,000m preview can be read here.
Before 11:00 AM rolls around all three women’s preliminary 100m sprints as well as men’s javelin will also have taken place. The following day, the women’s semi and final 100m races will have wrapped up at 8:30 PM local time. Many of the athletes are close, having run in the low 11-second range, however, Jamaica’s Sherone Simpson is competing and she will be a serious threat. Her personal best is 10.82. She has won two silver and one gold medal in the Olympics. She has also earned two Commonwealth Games gold medals.
Simpson’s primary competition will be Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Anne Baptiste who owns a personal best of 10.83. She won a bronze medal at the 2011 Daegu IAAF World Track and Field Championships. America’s Barbara Pierre has run as fast as 10.85. Two weeks ago she ran 11.01. Two upstarts during this event could be American Morolake Akinosun who has run as fast as 10.94 in 2015, but was wind-aided or Ana Claudia Silva of Brazil who ran 11.01 this year. Canada’s representatives are 23-year-old Crystal Emmanuel (11.27) and Khamica Bingham, who is two years younger, her best is 11.18
The men’s 100m preliminary heats will be completed by 11:10 AM. In the field is Andre De Grasse, who appears to be single-handedly putting Canada back on the sprinting map, with his excellent performances this summer in both the 100m and 200m events. He broke the Canadian 200m record this summer and improved it to 20.03 in May, while he has run legally as fast as 9.95 for the 100m and a wind-aided 9.75, which is the fastest that a Canadian has run in any conditions. He also broke 20-seconds in a wind-aided 200m race at the NCAA Championships. He is the 2015 NCAA Champion. All eyes will be on De Grasse as he grew up in nearby Scarborough.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Keston Bledman will be the man to beat. This year he has run as fast as 9.86. He has consistently run in the low 10-second range and just under. He is reliable and is a lock for a medal.
The semi-finals of the women’s 800m event will go Tuesday as well. The woman to beat based on season best performances is Cuban Rose Mary Almanza who dropped a big personal best three weeks ago to a stunning 1:57.70, this, just five weeks after setting a personal best of 1:59.35 on May 23rd setting a meet record.
Until three weeks ago, the sure bet going into these games for gold and silver was between American Alysia Montano and Cuban Sahily Diago. Montano is beginning to round into form as her season best is 1:59.15. Some of her best performances time-wise happen to take place during world championships and Olympic Games. Three times she has run under 1:58 at global championships including the Daegu and Moscow IAAF World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics.
Diago is just 19-year-old and has run as fast as 1:57.74 in 2014, this year, like Montano her season best is just under two-minutes at 1:59.91.
Canada’s Melissa Bishop had a late start to the season after spraining her ankle in May. She started racing in early June and began to show good form at the Portland Track Festival where she ran 2:00.67. Her best was 1:59.70 from 2013, which she improved one week ago to 1:59.52 in Lucerne, Switzerland. She and fellow Canadian Jessica Smith who is also competing in Toronto are two of five Canadians all-time to run under the two-minute barrier. Smith’s best is 1:59.86, while her season best is 2:01.07.
American Phoebe Wright owns a very strong personal best of 1:58.22, but her season best is still over two-minutes. Wright and none of the above athletes can be counted out. The preliminaries start at 6:45 PM local time.
At 7:10 PM the men’s 3,000m steeplechase starts. Canada’s Matt Hughes is the fastest in the field with both his personal best of 8:11.64, which is a Canadian record and his season best performance of 8:20.34. He is a lock for a medal and the pre-race favourite. He is the only Canadian entry. Although anything can happen in a championship race Hughes’ only serious competition appears to be from American Cory Leslie, who has demonstrated good range including owning a 1500m personal best of 3:34.93, mile at 3:53.44 and a 5,000m performance of 13:43.73.
The men’s 10,000m event includes one of Canada’s all-time fastest at the distance in Mo Ahmed who owns a best of 27:34.64. His season best of 27:46.90 is the fastest of all of his competitors. There are not as many chances to run a quality 10,000m race throughout the year as there are other distances, so Ahmed’s season best does not guarantee him a win or a medal for that matter. Savvy veteran, 32-yer-old Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico is in the race. His personal best is six seconds faster than Ahmed’s and his 5,000m is an even stronger 13:09.81, although these times are slightly more dated, Barrios is 32-years-of-age. Two other main competitors are both former Kenyans now competing for the US in Shadrack Kipchirchir (27:36.79) and Aron Rono (27:31.15).
This race will be a great opportunity for Ahmed to step out from the shadow of Cam Levins, who owns the Canadian 10,000m record, which he set this year to 27:07.51 in Eugene, Oregon. Levins will be racing the 5,000m only at the Pan Ams.
Finally, to cap off the evening the women’s 100m hurdles. Canada’s entries into this event look strong with Phylicia George and Nikkita Holder both of Toronto. This will be a great opportunity to perform in front of the hometown crowd.
Full schedule is available here.