The Pan American Games in Santiago officially kick off this Friday (20), with the opening ceremony at the Chilean National Stadium, promising to be a historic event packed with big names.
As with the Olympics, the Pan already has competitions – in boxing and baseball – even before the public presentation party. The first medals will be distributed this Saturday (21).
The competition, which runs until November 5th, is driven by intense activity behind the scenes at Panam, the continental organization that holds the Pan. The idea is to make the event the biggest of this century, surpassing the editions in Santo Domingo-2003, Rio de Janeiro -2007, Guadalajara-2011, Toronto-2015 and Lima-2019.
Of the 58 modalities in dispute, 21 will give direct places to the Paris Olympic Games. Another 12 have an influence on vacancies – they will count points for the ranking or indexes, in the case of athletics and swimming. It is the largest number involving a Pan.
“Our main objective is to classify the largest number of athletes for Paris. We have a very different edition, with the United States and Canada now bringing their best,” Rogério Sampaio, general director of the COB (Brazilian Olympic Committee) told Folha. . “There are 31 Olympic medalist athletes present from the United States alone.”
Panam announced the presence of 11 athletes with confirmed Olympic and world titles at the event.
The organization proudly displayed the faces of these athletes and classified as “superstars” the Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade, gold medalist in diving at the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Canadian swimmer Maggie Mac Neil, owner of a gold, a silver and a bronze in the Japan, and Cuban Mijaín López, current four-time Olympic champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, considered the greatest in the history of the sport.
The schedule has been rearranged, and, in the annual calendar reference, it will be the latest edition in the history of the event – surpassing the Pan de Guadalajara, held between October 14th and 30th. This was done to avoid competition with other events, a problem seen in Lima-2019.
“We have a structure very similar to that of Tokyo, Olympic in fact. The entire health team has doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, psychologists, nutritionists, as well as an area just for technology. And there is another for biochemistry”, he said Sampaio.
According to the COB director, the official goal established is third place in the overall medal table, but there is the ambition to surpass Canada as the second power in the Americas in the sport.
Gold medalist at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the former judoka who heads the Brazilian mission in Santiago has never been to a Pan.
Alongside Aurélio Miguel and other names, Rogério Sampaio spent practically two and a half years without participating in major international competitions due to his adherence to the boycott of the CBJ (Brazilian Judo Confederation). He only returned in January 1992, months before the Olympic Games.
“I lost the Havana Pan (in 1991) due to the fight for benefits for a sport that didn’t have the slightest structure. Today I tell athletes: ‘Appreciate it’. There is no longer such a lower level competition position”, he stated.
Brazil obtained its record number of medals at the Pan in 2019 in Peru, 170. At the time, the disputes took place simultaneously with other important tournaments. Competitions such as the aquatic sports World Cup and the volleyball pre-Olympics depleted the event.
This time, that doesn’t happen. And Brazil has 621 athletes in its delegation, in addition to 11 reserves. One of the highlights is skateboarder Rayssa Leal, 15 years old, the youngest in the group, one of the 20 Olympic medalist athletes present.
Gymnast Rebeca Andrade arrives as favorite, who will make her debut at Pans, after absence due to injuries in 2015 and 2019. She will not have her main rival, North American Simone Biles, in her path.
Another big name is swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha, gold in Tokyo in the 10 km race. She spent about five months on the sidelines in 2023 after undergoing surgery on her left shoulder.
Also fighting for medals are Hugo Calderano (table tennis), Beatriz Ferreira (boxing), Isaquias Queiroz (canoeing), Fernando Scheffer (swimming), Rafaela Silva (judo), Arthur Nory (artistic gymnastics), Guilherme Costa (swimming), Tatiana Weston-Webb (surfing) and Luisa Stefani (tennis). Stefani and Scheffer are the flag bearers.
“We don’t need to convince anyone, persuade anyone. Practically all the calls came, with the exception of Alison dos Santos, who competed in the World Cup, but recovered from recent surgery and needed time to recover”, said Rogério Sampaio.