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Top 5 Athletes in the History of PanAmerican Games

Top 5 Athletes in the History of PanAmerican Games

Posted by Miguel Ernesto on April 18, 2015

The PanAmerican Games have a rich history of over six decades. The 16 editions, from Buenos Aires, 1951, to Guadalajara, 2011, have been attended by over 65 thousand athletes. These is a high number in a long period, so naming the most outstanding athletes is kind of complicated; but in PanamericanWorld we dared to prepare a Top 5 list of boldface names that have made history in the most important sports event on the continent.

Erick Lopez (Cuba, Gymnastics)

Cuban gymnast Erick Lopez holds two hard-to-break records: he has won the highest number of medals (22) and titles (18) in the history of the Pan-American Games. Erick’s reign kicked off in Havana, in 1991, when he was barely 17 years old. Lopez stood out in that edition with the best results on the horse and parallel bars. Four years later, in Mar del Plata, Erick once again climbed to the top of the podium, with excellent results on parallel bars and pommel horse. In Winnipeg, 1999, he did it again and won the gold on the rings, parallel bars and pommel horse.

The Santo Domingo edition, in 2003, was his last event at that level. Lopez was almost 30 years old, but what he might have lost in terms of his physical condition was compensated by his huge experience. In front of the Dominican public, Erick’s performance was nearly flawless, as he won six out of seven tests. With 22 medals in 4 Games, this Cuban athlete stands among the Pan-American legends.

Gustavo Borges (Brazil, Swimming)

The list of multi-medalists in Pan-American Games has gymnasts on the first four positions. The fifth step is occupied by Gustavo Borges, who is described as the finest swimmer in Pan-American Games and one of the best of all times on the continent because of his four Olympic medals.

Borges was a long-lived swimmer, as he participated in 4 editions of the Pan-American Games. He traveled to Havana at the age of 19 and in the swimming pools of the recently inaugurated Baragua Complex the swimmer won 100 m freestyle (49.48 seconds); he later swam for the gold in the relay 4 x 100 m freestyle, defeating the Canadian team. Years later, in the 1995 edition, Borges once again won the 100 meters freestyle, with 49.31 seconds, thus setting the Pan-American record at the time. Furthermore, the Brazilian athlete conquered the 200 meters freestyle (1:48.49).

In Winnipeg, his compatriot Fernando Scherer put an end to his dominance in 100 meters, but Borges got the gold in 200 meters; while the Brazilian team prevailed in relays 4 x 100 meters freestyle and 4 x 100 m medley. Finally, in Santo Domingo, Borges took the gold home after the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay. All in all, the Brazilian swimmer won 19 medals: 8 gold, 8 silvers and 3 bronzes. 

Lones Wigger (United States, Shooting)

Lones Wigger is a shooting legend in the United States. This retired Army Colonel competed in four Olympic events (1964, 1968, 1972 and 1980) where he won three medals (two gold medals and one silver). In the Pan-American Games his enviable shooting skill caught everybody’s eye since Sao Paulo, in 1963, where he conquered his first title, as a member of the US team of small-bore carbine.

Throughout twenty years, Wigger shined in the Pan-American Games. He said goodbye in Caracas Pan-American Games, 1983, when he was 46 years old. It was an impressive farewell as he added three gold medals to his record (he won with the large-bore carbine, 3x40 meters, individual and teams, and the team large-bore carbine). In six Pan-American incursions, Wigger collected 18 medals, 13 of which were gold.

Joanne Malar (Canada, Swimming)

Canadian swimmer Joanne Malar is the athlete with the highest number of medals won in Pan-American Games, 19, collected from Havana, 1991, to Santo Domingo, 2003.

During the Pan-American Games held at the Cuban capital city, Malar competed at the age of 16 and, although she didn’t get the gold, the athlete did show that she was a great swimmer, with great skills in the four styles. Malar was the queen of the 200 m medley in three consecutive editions of the Pan-American Games (1995-2003), and she won the 400 m medley in 1995 and 1999.

Malar retired at the age of 30 and, although she never won an Olympic medal, the swimmer did make history by conquering 30 national titles and over 70 medals in different international events.

Denise Parker (United States, Archery)

Denise Parker was described as the best archer of the United States over the last two decades of the 20th century. She made her international debut in Indianapolis Pan-American Games, 1987, when she was only 13 years old. That lefty girl surprised everybody as she won the individual event.

In her second Pan-American performance, in Havana, Denise — who was already an experienced archer with an Olympic medal won in Seoul, 1988 — prevailed in the individual competition and took the title back home. She also ranked 1st in 30, 60 and 70 meters (these modes are no longer included in the program of the Pan-American Games).

Parker was the Pan-American queen of archery until Winnipeg, 1999. In five editions of the Games, she conquered 15 medals: 12 gold medals, 2 silvers and 1 bronze. On the list of athletes with more Pan-American medals, Parker ranks second, right behind Joanne Malar.

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