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Pan Am Masters

by Laura S. Jones

Sixty-nine swimmers representing 15 USMS clubs went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2011 Pan Ams. Athletes in the international competition enjoyed all the standard pool events and multiple relays as well as a 3K open water swim that started at the fabled Copacabana Beach.

Fort Lauderdale Aquatics, with 12 swimmers and Masters of South Texas with 13, sent the largest contingents. The other clubs were: Arizona Masters, Atlanta Water Jocks, Colonials 1776, Davis Aquatic Masters, Garden State Masters, Georgia Masters, Hawaii Masters, North Carolina Masters, Sarasota YMCA Sharks, University of San Francisco Masters, Vashon Vikings, Virginia Masters, and Indy Aquatic Masters.

Marty Hendrick, 53 and coach of Fort Lauderdale Aquatics, was proud to share the news that FLAQ swimmer Linda Webb, 66, received five gold medals (in the 50 and 100 free and 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke) at the meet and set Pan American Records in all except the breaststroke.

Other multiple gold medalists from FLAQ included Linda Larson, 56, Kelly Legaspi, 30, and Philipp Djang, 57.

Susan Ingraham, 52 and coach of Masters of South Texas, said the games were just fantastic. “Opening ceremonies was so much fun as we paraded in to loud music and showing off our Red, White and Blue pride of Texas. Everyone loved our cowboy hats and asked to have their pictures taken with us. We had a wonderful time …  It truly was a great blend of swimming, sightseeing, travel and relaxing.”

Standout performances from MOST included: Ronda Nisman, 57, (three golds, two silvers, two Pan American Records, first in open water); Diane Wheatley,78, (two golds, two silvers, one bronze, two Pan American Records); and Rosana Andrade, 51, (one gold, one bronze, one Pan American Record).

Ingraham did pretty well herself, hauling in two golds, three silvers, two Pan American Records, and a second place in her age group in the 3K open water event.

But Megan Melgaard, 31, of Georgia Masters, may have had the most masterful performance of the games. She not only was the first female overall in the open water race, she beat all the men. Her time for the 3K was 34:35, nearly a minute faster than her closest competitor.

She thought the games, her first Pan Am Masters but not her first Pan Am games, were “absolutely amazing.  Rio is … unique with its bustling city streets, tropical climate, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches. The 3K open water event was held on Copacabana Beach.  It was a two-loop course totaling three kilometers. … The water was slightly rough, but it was the 69-70 degree water [that] kept most of us doing our warming up on the beach. There were over 50 lifeguards on paddle boards, boats, jet skis, and in kayaks, which was absolutely wonderful. The race was very well organized.”

Jack Martin, 60, of Colonials 1776, was another happy participant. He writes on the USMS forums: “The Pan Ams were a great meet. The Open Water 3K was also a unique experience. There were about 400 men. We started in maybe a 20 by 20 meter area on the beach and it seemed like we stayed that way for the first 600M of the race. After the race, they had an awards ceremony for the top 10 in each age group. After a week of competition we all pretty much knew each other and getting up on the medals stand was a great experience, everyone was cheering. It was a something that I will never forget. Sarasota will host the Pan Ams in 2013. I think they can have an even bigger and better meet and BTW, Rio is unbelievable!”

Martin earned second place in his age group, finishing behind age group winner Rick Walker, 61 of the Sarasota YMCA Sharks, by 36 seconds. Walker had a big meet, taking home gold in all of his events, including the open water swim.

USMS Coach and Club Services Coordinator Mel Goldstein was there in both an official capacity and as a swimmer. Goldstein, 73 of Indy Aquatic Masters, is also the Chairman of the Masters Technical Committee for UANA (Union Americana de Natacion, which translates to the Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas).

“I think the meet was just absolutely wonderful. The hospitality showed to all the athletes was unbelievable. The volunteers were just remarkable.” Goldstein says there were 2100 athletes at the games from 22 countries, far more than ever before. And “everybody swam well.” Goldstein predicts that over 3,000 swimmers will travel to Sarasota for the next Pan Am games in 2013.

For more, see the Pan Am results page.

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