The U.S. inline speed skating team proved its power today, winning three of four gold medals at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Joey Mantia and Brittany Bowe earned the men's and women's sprint gold medals with commanding victories in the 500-meter time trials.
Jessica Smith, 23, of Dearborn, MI, collected the gold in the closely contested distance division, although she only finished second in both of today's races.
Colombia's Jorge Cifuentes was the only non-U.S. skater to win a gold. The 19-year-old skater dominated the men's distance races, winning all three, including today's 10,000 and 15,000 meters.
USA coach Robb Dunn is flanked by Brittany Bowe (left) and Jessica Smith at last week's Indoor Nationals in Omaha.
USA's Brittany Bowe once again appeared to be in a class of her own in the women's division. The 19-year-old from Ocala, FL, posted a winning time in the 500 meters (46.534 seconds) that was eight-tenths of a second faster than that of second-place Carolina Santibanez of Chile.
That was almost as remarkable as Bowe's performance in Tuesday's 300 meters, in which she posted a time 1.2 seconds faster than anyone else's.
Joey Mantia, 21, of Olympia, WA, also proved to be unbeatable. He was the only man to post a time of under 45 seconds in the 500-meter finals. His time (44.774) was four-tenths of a second faster than that of second-place Juan Jardines of Venezuela.
The competition for gold in the women's distance category hinged on whether Jessica Smith could hold her one point lead over Argentina's Silvina Posada.
Posada came within striking distance of Smith when she won the first distance event of the day: the 10,000-meter points race.
Going into the final event (the 15,000-meter combination), Smith knew that to win the gold she had to finish in front of Posada and no more than three skaters behind third-place Alexandra Vivas of Colombia.
Skaters earn 12 points for first place, 11 for second, 10 for third, and so on.
Smith accomplished her goal. She finished in second place, just in front of Posada, who finished third, and just behind the winner, Vivas.
Jorge Cifuentes dominated the men's distance events to give Colombia its only speed skating gold medal. Cifuentes, who has found success in this year's World Inline Cup, finished a few tenths of a second ahead in both of today's distance events: the 10,000-meter points and the 15,000-meter combined.
USA's Jonathan Garcia, 20, of Houston, TX, finished out of medal contention in fifth place overall. He placed third in Tuesday's 20,000-meter elimination, but today was only able to manage sixth in the 10,000 meters and fifth in the 15,000 meters.
Countries were only allowed to enter one skater of each sex per category, sprint and distance.
The U.S. team ended on top in the medal standings. Colombia finished second with one medal each of gold, silver and bronze. Venezuela was third with two silver medals.
Twelve countries, including Canada and Cuba, competed in the the speed skating competition.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Burnson