By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – The athletics at the Pan Am Games failed to get off to a blazing start on Tuesday with even the presence of Olympic 100 metres champion Elaine Thompson unable to light up a dreary afternoon in Lima.
The Jamaican sprint queen, the biggest name in the track and field competition along with her team mate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, strolled into the final by winning her semi-final in a pedestrian 11.36 seconds.
While the Pan Ams have attracted a sprinkling of stars from Cuban boxers to American gymnasts, the women’s 100 metres underscored one of the biggest issues facing the two-week event — a huge lack of depth.
Sprinters seldom offer up their best in the heats and certainly there was no need for Thompson, who has clocked a season’s best time of 10.73, to move much out of first gear to get into Wednesday’s final as top seed.
Only one other woman in the semi-final heats had ran under 11 seconds this season and one of Thompson’s rivals, Peru’s Triana Alonso Zileri, has a personal best nearly two seconds slower than the Jamaican.
While United States sprinting great Carl Lewis spent nearly an hour on Monday praising the Pan Am Games as a worthy endeavour for athletes, Thompson had no time for chit chat and made it through the mixed zone without saying a word.
Thompson’s “what am I doing here?” expression might have had something to do with a late switch with Fraser-Pryce that saw her move from the 200m, where she is also Olympic champion and owns the season’s top time, to the 100m.
Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champion, will now run the half-lap sprint instead.
Jamaica’s Chef de Mission Rudolph Spied said the switch was made at the request of the athletes.
“They are two of our top athletes so if they want to switch it’s okay with us,” he said.
“Shelly-Ann and Elaine are both looking at what they need for their own development at this stage of the season.
“These things are always a team decision but it was the athletes who requested the switch. Elaine thinks she needs more speed work, and Shelly-Ann wants to work on endurance.”
The men’s 100m heats did not offer up any more excitement with no one getting remotely close to going under 10 seconds.
Brazilians Rodrigo do Nascimento and Paulo Andre de Oliveira clocking the two best times of 10.27 and 10.29 respectively ahead of U.S. veteran Mike Rodgers, who was also timed at 10.29.
“I was just taking it easy out there,” said Rodgers who will be looking to better his season best time of 10 flat in the final. “Just get through and hopefully drop something tomorrow and hopefully the weather is better.”
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)