Report03 Nov 2023

Home star Weil and world champion Paulino secure Pan American Games success


Martina Weil on her way to the 400m title at the Pan American Games (© AFP / Getty Images)

South American champion Martina Weil completed three days of unprecedented performances for host nation Chile after six days of athletics action at the Pan American Games.

The daughter of two successful athletes at the Games, 24-year-old Weil collected a most prized medal of her own on Wednesday (1). Moving away early in the 400m final, she held off her closest competitors to take the women’s 400m in 51.48 on a cold and rainy night, racing in front of 50,000 fans in a packed stadium.

In a repeat of the South American Championships final three months ago, Ecuador’s Nicole Caicedo closed strongly to secure silver in 51.76, ahead of South American heptathlon record-holder Evelis Aguilar (51.95) of Colombia, who gained her first individual medal at the Games after a 4x400m bronze 12 years before.

Weil, whose photo appears on massive boards across public spaces, has inherited the sporting genes of her mother, the 1992 Olympic 400m bronze medallist Ximena Restrepo, and father, the two-time Pan American Games shot put champion Gert Weil (1987-1991). Restrepo, now World Athletics Senior Vice President, presented Weil with the gold medal.

Weil’s victory is the first by a Chilean woman at the Games in 24 years and it completed three magic evenings for the host country at the National Stadium, following Lucas Nervi’s win in the discus on Monday and Santiago Ford’s gold in the decathlon on Tuesday.

Weil added more joy for local fans, running the second leg in the 4x100m for a historic silver medal performance. The team clocked 44.19, a second national record on the same evening. Anais Hernandez, national record-holder Isidora Jimenez and anchor Maria Montt were part of the team effort for an unprecedented sixth athletics medal for Chile.

After a busy campaign that saw her win her first individual world title in the 400m in Budapest, Marileidy Paulino became the first woman from Dominican Republic to claim a sprints title in the Games, this time in the 200m with 22.73. In a packed week, Paulino also ran the second leg in the bronze medal-winning quartet in the women’s 4x100m. On Monday she anchored her squad to gold in the 4x400m mixed relay and she will join her teammates on Saturday in the women’s 4x400m final.

Marileidy Paulino on her way to a 200m win at the Pan American Games

Marileidy Paulino on her way to a 200m win at the Pan American Games (© AFP / Getty Images)

Two other global medallists from Budapest delivered for their respective countries. Shot put silver medallist Sarah Mitton achieved Canada’s first athletics gold in Santiago with three solid efforts over 19 metres, including her winning 19.19m. In the women’s triple jump, world bronze medallist Leyanis Perez led from the start, with three jumps over 14.60m and a best of 14.75m. She sealed Cuba’s first women’s triple jump victory in 16 years.

With the 4x100m relays held Thursday (2), other multiple medallists emerged on the track. Brazil’s 19-year-old Renan Correa became the youngest athletics champion at these Games with an impressive 20.37 run in the men’s 200m to deny Dominican Republic’s 100m winner Juan Alnardo Gonzalez (20.56) the sprint double. Correa then anchored the Brazilian men’s team as they renewed their relay crown from Lima in 2019.

With victories from Eduardo Rodriguez in the 110m hurdles (13.70) and Lucas Conceicao in the 400m (45.77), Brazil now sits on top of the athletics medal tally with five gold medals.

The women’s 100m champion Yunisleidy De La Caridad Garcia settled for silver in the 200m (23.33) behind Paulino and added a second gold in Santiago as the anchor of the Cuban 4x100m quartet.

Earlier in the week, Costa Rica’s 2019 World Championships finalist Ana Carolina Vargas became the second athlete at these Games to successfully defend her title from Lima as she prevailed in a close 100m hurdles race in 13.06. In the process, the 27-year-old gave the Central American nation its first gold medal in Santiago across all sports. In the semifinals, she posted her fastest time in two years with 12.78.

After a bronze medal at home in Toronto (2015) and the 5000m silver earlier this week, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot finally savoured gold at the continental event with a photo finish win in the 1500m (3:39.74) over fellow Canadian Robert Joseph Heppenstall (3:39.76).

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and Robert Joseph Heppenstall battle for the 5000m title in Santiago de Chile

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and Robert Joseph Heppenstall battle for the 5000m title in Santiago de Chile (© AFP / Getty Images)

The wins by Philibert-Thiboutot and his teammate Mitton came just a few minutes apart.

Other winners include Venezuela’s South American record-holder Joselyn Brea in the 5000m (16:04.12), and USA’s 2019 world champion DeAnna Price in the hammer (72.34m), World Championships finalist Bridget Williams in the pole vault (4.60m) and Erin Marsh in the heptathlon (5882). In her third Games, heptathlon runner-up Alysbeth Felix (5565) became Puerto Rico’s first woman to win a Pan American Games medal.

Third in their respective events, Nadale Buntin (200m) and World Championships finalist Thea Lafond won St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica their first medals in Santiago across all sports.

The athletics action in Chile concludes on 4 November, when the marathon race walk mixed relay – a new Olympic discipline – will make its Games debut.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for World Athletics