October 21, 2011

OKC High Performance Athletes Return Home With 5 Medals from the XVI Pan Am Games

With the completion of the rowing events at the XVI Pan American Games, United States crews finished with eight total medals including four gold, two silver and two bronze. Oklahoma City High Performance Center athletes won five of the eight medals awarded to Team USA. Cuba won nine total medals (three gold), with Argentina (five gold) and Canada (no gold) also finishing with eight medals.

The U.S. men’s eight of coxswain Marcus McElhenney, Michael Gennaro, Matt Wheeler, Blaise Didier, Steve Kasprzyk, Joe Spencer, Ty Otto, Jason Read and Derek Johnson capped off the regatta with a wire-to-wire victory on Wednesday.

The crew took command off the start, building more than a one-second advantage during the first 500 meters of the race and increasing that lead to more than three seconds over Mexico at the midway point. Despite a late charge by Canada, the U.S. cruised to a 1.69-second victory. Canada won the silver medal, followed by Argentina.

“We just came out of the blocks faster than we’ve ever done,” said McElhenney. “The whole goal was to take the race; no one was going to give it to us. We took it from the very first stroke, and we just kept running with it. My hat’s off to these guys.”

With the victory in men’s eight race, Oklahoma City's Otto and Gennaro become double gold medalists at the XVI Pan American Games. The duo also won a gold medal in the men’s pair.

Michelle Sechser, Chelsea Smith, Catherine Reddick and Megan Walsh brought home a bronze medal in the women’s quadruple sculls.

The crew sat in fourth place behind Cuba, out of the medals, going into the final 500 meters but recorded the fastest final quarter of the race to win bronze with a time of 6:39.36. Argentina won gold in a 6:34.46, followed by Canada.

“It feels great,” said Sechser. “It was a tough race again in the quad, coming back from behind, sitting in fifth or sixth place in the second 500. We knew as a crew that we were going to grind in the middle of that base and came together as a boat. We had only practiced twice and gave it everything we had.”

With today’s medal, all four women became double medalists at the XVI Pan American Games. Oklahoma City's Sechser and Smith won bronze in the lightweight women’s double sculls, while Reddick and Walsh won silver in the women’s double sculls.

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