Riveros claims Pan Am Games and Rio qualifying spot
The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games saw a fresh podium for women’s triathlon on Saturday as athletes from Chile, Mexico and Bermuda all earned first-time medals. Barbara Riveros (CHI) polished off a phenomenal run to secure her first ever Pan Am gold medal, while Mexico’s Paola Diaz and Bermuda’s Flora Duffy joined her on the podium to take home the silver and gold.
The victory for Riveros not only grants Chile a gold in the Games medal count, but it also gives Chile an automatic qualifying spot for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games next summer.
“It is very special to win it. I think the dynamic of the race just went my way and I am very glad to give this medal to my country because we do not have many medals. This is a historic medal for my country,” said Riveros.
Under sunny skies and the Toronto skyline in full view at the Ontario Place West Channel, the women’s elite race kicked off the two-day triathlon weekend and start to the Games.
Halfway through the two-lap swim, Duffy, Pamella Oliveira (BRA) and Sarah Haskins (USA) pushed ahead to create a three-man pack and exit the waters together. While in the first transition Duffy and Oliveira continued on to gain as much space as they could, Haskins waited in the zone for her two USA compatriots Chelsea Burns and Erin Jones to join her so they could ride as a team. Her patience however, added a 90-second disadvantage entering into the second discipline to the 2011 Pan American Games gold medallist.
On the bike leg, Duffy and Oliveira were about to maintain their lead as a duo for about two laps, while a chase containing 15 remained at a 60-second lead. But, a giant game of catch the leader proved strong for the pack as two laps of pushing moved them right up to the top two, causing a large front group of 17 to form. Among the contenders were Riveros, Diaz, Burns, Haskins and Melissa Rios (PUR) and Canada’s own Paula Findlay, Ellen Pennock and Joanna Brown.
The pack stayed together for the remainder of the bike and would leave the podium down to the final leg. Heading into the second transition, Mexico stood with the best chance of securing a medal as all three members of their team were among the top-eight.
Once foot hit the pavement however, Riveros capitalized on her strongest discipline and pushed to grab a nice breakaway that would carry her right to the finish line at a time of 1:57:18. Her solo four-lap run would bring her home and give her the first individual medal of the Games.
Diaz followed shortly behind at 1:57:48 to take home the silver medal and first for her country.
“I’m so happy. This is my first medal and I can’t believe it. This is the good thing about triathlon, nothing is over until the end. I just tried to stay with the group and stay consistent so that I could finish the race well. This means so much after all of the training. My coach is going to be so proud. They don’t train me in person, he trains me via the internet. This means so much to me for my group of training partners and supporters and family,” said Diaz.
While her lead throughout the majority of the race was not enough to capture a gold, Duffy competed as the lone triathlete to represent Bermuda. Her finishing time of 1:57:56 was enough to grant her a bronze medal and a large amount of pride to bring back to her country.
Duffy said, “I am over the moon with how it went. My goal from the start is to really push myself on the bike and to get a small breakaway so I swam hard. I came out of the water in the lead but unfortunately there was some team tactics going on and left myself and Pamella alone at the front, so it is hard when you have a bunch of girls working together to catch up to you. But then on the run that really motivated me to run hard and try to win a medal. This is huge for my country and I am really proud to be a Bermudian.”