Reinaldo Colucci outlasts Manuel Huerta for Pan Am Games title
Brazilian big man Reinaldo Colucci snatched victory at the Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta today, and stamped it as his career’s greatest achievement.
“For us in Brazil, Pan American Games is the next (biggest) race after the Olympics and this was my main goal this year,” said Colucci. “I was not training so hard in the beginning of the year to be in my top form for today. I’m so happy because it worked and the race was perfect.”
With a toasty water temperature of 29 degrees Celsius, 40 men dove into the swim course in Puerto Vallarta for the opening 2-lap, 1.5km swim.
Like the women’s race earlier, the field started to separate early as three distinct packs formed. Cuba’s Michel Gonzalez and Luciano Farias of Argentina set the early pace with Colucci, McMahon, Gerardo Vergara of Guatemala and Leandro Lobo of Venezuela close behind.
Out of T1, a lead group of almost 20 men tackled the 40km bike course together. By the end of the first lap, they owned a 1:20 lead. In that lead group were Colucci, all three Americans – Matt Chrabot, Huerta and Mark Fretta, as well as the Canadians McMahon and Kyle Jones, Leonardo Chacon of Costa Rica, Jason Wilson of Barbados, Gonzalez and Crisanto Grajales of Mexico.
What began as a 1:20 lead was cut to 53 seconds at the end of the fourth lap. As the chase group continued to work to cut the gap, they further shaved down the lead to 30 seconds when they hit the bell lap.
McMahon was the first to step onto the 10km run course as the temperature soared to almost 40 degrees Celsius.
On the first of three run laps, McMahon, Huerta and Colucci surged to the front and distanced themselves from the rest of the field. They opened up a 20-second lead on Jones and 30 seconds on Gonzalez who was running in fifth place.
Huerta and Colucci opened up a slight lead on McMahon as they came through transition one last time and heard the bell, signifying just one lap to go in the battle for gold.
“I was very confident with my sprint,” recalled Colucci at the finish area after the race. “I tried to put on a cruising pace, not push so hard and wait until the last 800 or 600 metres to really pick the pace up and sprint. It worked perfectly because he (Huerta) dropped straight away and I could even celebrate in the last hundred metres.”
Down the finish chute with victory in hand, Colucci grabbed the Brazilian flag and celebrated across the finish line, clocking in at 1 hour, 48 minutes, and two seconds. It was a sweet victory for Colucci on his daughter’s birthday.
“She’s one year old today, and though she’s not here today, I guess that’s the perfect present for her from her dad,” said Colucci.
Huerta held off McMahon for the silver, a breakthrough performance for the American, though he admitted he fell short of his goal to win the title.
“Second is always tough because I was so close to winning but at the end I got the U.S. a medal so I’m very happy,” said Huerta. “We came here to win but today (Colucci) was stronger than me. I gave everything I had so I know when I go to sleep tonight I know it was 110 per cent out there.”
McMahon finished 20 seconds behind Colucci for the bronze, his second straight Pan Am Games medal after winning silver four years ago in Rio.
“I did everything I could to come out of here with the gold but I just came up a little short,” said McMahon. “I put everything out there today and I’m super happy to win a medal for Canada.”
His Canadian teammate Kyle Jones finished in fourth place, followed by Diego Sclebin in the fifth spot. Butterfield of Bermuda came across in sixth position.
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