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Manuel Huerta won Pan Am Games silver Sunday in Puerto Vallarta.
photo: ©2011 Rich Cruse | USA Triathlon

Gold for Haskins, Silver for Huerta at Pan American Games

Teamwork delivers podium finishes for the U.S.


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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico — USA Triathlon National Team member Sarah Haskins struck gold in convincing fashion, while Manuel Huerta raced his way to silver in the Pan American Games triathlon Sunday at the Puerto Vallarta Maritime Terminal.

Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo.) earned the fifth all-time Pan Am Games triathlon gold medal for the U.S. in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 37 seconds on the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course. Silver went to Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile, while Brazil’s Pamela Nascimento Oliveira earned bronze.

On the men’s side, Huerta (Miami, Fla.), who finished in 1:48:09, was edged by seven seconds in the final 200 meters of the run by gold medalist Reinaldo Colucci of Brazil. Canada’s Brent McMahon was third.

With her victory, Haskins clinched the second country spot for the U.S. women for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Gwen Jorgensen (Milwaukee, Wis.), who was fourth today, locked up the first Olympic spot for the Americans with a second-place finish at the London ITU World Championship Series event in August.

“This was my last race of the season, so it’s awesome just to end on a high note. I felt good on the run … ” Haskins said. “Our goal was to really work together as a team, and we had many different scenarios on how to pull it together and I’m just so happy that it worked, most especially for Team USA over my individual goals.”

From the start of the swim, Haskins and Sara McLarty (Clermont, Fla.) — along with Oliveira — set the pace. The trio carried a 40-second lead onto the bike and they continued to expand the advantage throughout the six-lap, 40k ride. After opening a lead of 1:45 after just one lap of the bike, the trio pushed the gap from just over three minutes at the midway point of the bike to nearly four minutes in T2.

“You never know how you’re going to feel on the run,” Haskins said. “And if I was not feeling so hot on the run I had a feeling I could need almost a three-minute lead.”

But once on the run, Haskins was never threatened. The 2007 Pan Am Games silver medalist opened a 55-second lead on Oliveira after one lap of the 10k run and continued to push the pace, crossing the line nearly three minutes ahead of a hard-charging Riveros Diaz.

Jorgensen closed strong with the day’s second-fastest run split (36:16) to finish fourth. After working to hard to build a sizeable lead on the swim and bike with Haskins, McLarty finished 13th.

“I’m proud of her,” McLarty said of her long-time teammate Haskins. “She is an athlete that gets up on race day and does what she has to do time after time after time. … To be associated with Haskins is an honor.”

Following the women’s race, the men took to the course under hot, humid conditions. All three U.S. men — Huerta, Matt Chrabot (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Mark Fretta (Colorado Springs, Colo.) — were just off the pace of the leaders into T1, and they quickly joined the lead pack on the first lap of the bike.

With Chrabot and Fretta working hard on the bike to drive the pace and protect Huerta, a lead pack of 17 cyclists stuck together for most of the 40k ride.

“I was covering all the attacks, while at the same time trying to keep the pace a little high to try to shake some of the guys off the back … We knew the Brazilians were going to be up there; the Canadians we couldn’t do anything about on the bike,” Chrabot said. “The idea was to have the least amount of guys up there that we could.”

McMahon led the charge out of T2 with Huerta among the top five. The three eventual podium finishers — Colucci, Huerta and McMahon — pulled away on the first lap of the run. On lap two, it was down to Colucci and Huerta, and the two ran side by side before Colucci managed to pull away with 200 meters to go.

“I was able to keep that U.S. streak of winning medals at the Pan Am Games. We came here to win, but today (Colucci) was stronger than me. I gave everything I had so when I go to sleep tonight I know that it was 110 percent,” Huerta said. “My teammates did 200 percent, and I think they even sacrificed their races to get me that podium spot.”

Chrabot finished 10th in 1:50:58, and Fretta took 23rd in 1:56:08.

With two medals Sunday, the U.S. is now tied for the top spot with Canada with 10 all-time Pan American Games medals, including five gold, since triathlon made its debut in 1995.

2011 Pan American Games Triathlon, Oct. 23, 2011, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico  
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run

Women – Click here for complete results
1. Sarah Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:57:37

2. Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI), 2:00:23
3. Pamela Nascimento Oliveira (BRA), 2:00:32
4. Gwen Jorgensen (Milwaukee, Wis.), 2:00:54
13. Sara McLarty (Clermont, Fla.), 2:05:49

Men – Click here for complete results
1. Reinaldo Colucci (BRA), 1:48:02
2. Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.), 1:48:09
3. Brent McMahon (CAN), 1:48:23
10. Matt Chrabot (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:50:58
23. Mark Fretta (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:56:08

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Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon – one of the fastest growing sports in the world – as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. USA Triathlon sanctions 3,500 races and connects with more than 150,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including ITU World Championships, Pan American Games and the Summer Olympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the International Triathlon Union and the United States Olympic Committee