By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – The United States jumped clear at the top of the Pan Am Games medal table after sweeping the 3×3 basketball gold medals on Monday and every indication would suggest they are likely to remain there for duration of the two-week showcase.
After hosts Peru got off to a dream start on Saturday by winning both marathons to briefly top the table, and a gold medal run on Sunday put Mexico at number one, the powerhouse U.S. flexed their collective muscles on Day Three.
Heading into the evening session, the U.S. had seized control of the leaderboard with 17 gold and 44 total medals.
Mexico continued to enjoy impressive performances but are now firmly in the rear-view mirror of their northern neighbours with 12 golds. No other nation is yet in double figures.
“We are definitely the pioneers, first team to win the 3×3 gold medal and I’m glad it was the USA,” said Jonathan Octeus, who drained two free throw to clinch a 21-19 win over Puerto Rico in the men’s 3×3 final. The women stopped Argentina 21-17.
Water skier Regina Jaquess added a pair of golds to the U.S. haul, winning the women’s slalom and jump events.
Other golds came from Ashley Carroll in women’s trap shooting and Jessica Davis and Samantha Achterberg in the women’s modern pentathlon team relay.
There was also another gold for the host nation to cheer when Natalia Cuglievan topped the podium in the women’s water ski tricks event.
It was a fourth gold for Peru, who have already ensured it will be their most successful ever Pan Am Games after surpassing the three they won four years ago in Toronto.
It was a good day too for Canada, who doubled their gold medal total after gymnast Ellie Black successfully defended her all-around title after a tight battle with Riley McCusker of the U.S.
Black, who was the most decorated Canadian at the 2015 Pan Am Games with five medals, now has two from two events in Lima having also picked up a silver in the team competition.
Canada also grabbed top spot on the podium ahead of the U.S. in team dressage, securing Olympic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games in the process.
The U.S. had already qualified for Tokyo with a second place finish at last year’s World Equestrian Games.
Colombia’s weightlifters have carried the country up to third place on the medal table, taking five of their seven golds with Jhonatan Rivas Mosquera making the latest contribution by winning the men’s 96kg competition.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)