Friday, July 26, 2019

Pan Am Games Then & Now

Twenty years ago the 1999 Pan American Games were held in Winnipeg, Canada, and included racquetball for just the second time in Pan Am Games history. USA players swept gold. Adam Karp and Cheryl Gudinas won Men’s and Women’s Singles, respectively, while Doug Ganim and Drew Kachtik won Men’s Doubles with Joy MacKenzie and Jackie Paraiso winning Women’s Doubles.

It was the last tournament for Canadian Sherman Greenfeld, who was playing in his hometown. He had to play fellow Canadian Kane Waselenchuk in the quarterfinals, as Waselenchuk had lost a match in the preliminary round to Rob De Jesus of Puerto Rico. Waselenchuk had beated Greenfeld for his first Canadian National Championship two months before, but in the rematch at Pan Ams Greenfeld squeaked out a victory in a tie-breaker.

Unfortunately for Greenfeld, he wasn’t able to get to the gold medal match, as he lost to the USA’s Michael Bronfeld in the semi-finals. Then De Jesus beat Greenfeld in the bronze medal match (bronze medals have been awarded to both racquetball semi-finalists from the 2003 Games).

Next week the racquetball competition will begin at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. The USA would surely love to sweep gold, as they did in Winnipeg, but that seems unlikely given the improvements from the other countries over the last two decades.

Team News

There is a limit to the number of racquetball athletes that will compete in Lima. Usually for international racquetball events countries can send four players for both the men’s and women’s competitions, so two players would play singles and two would play doubles. Some countries send two or three players with one or both of them playing both singles and doubles.

But the Pan Am Games is a huge event; there were over 6100 athletes at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Thus, entries are limited for all sports. A qualification process is required to determine how many players each country can send.

The 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships in Barranquilla, Colombia was the qualifying event for the 2019 Pan Am Games. The results from Barranquilla determined the number of players each country qualified for Lima. Only two countries are able to send 4 athletes to Lima: Bolivia in men’s play and Mexico in women’s play.

The USA will send three men and two women. Canada two men and two women. Bolivia four and three; Mexico three and four. It’s the Mexican selection that has caused some controversy.

The Mexico team will be Javier Mar, Rodrigo Montoya and Alvaro Beltran - who played way back in those 1999 Games in Winnipeg, when he won bronze in Men’s Doubles with Javier Moreno. The controversy is that Alejandro Landa, not Beltran won the Mexican Nationals, which should have meant he was the #1 qualifier for Lima.

Apparently the logic is that Beltran did better than Landa at the Pan Am Championships in Barranquilla, so he gets to go to Lima. Beltran made the semis in Barranquilla, where Landa was upset in the quarterfinals by Costa Rican Andres Acuña. Acuña went breaker with the USA’s Charlie Pratt in the semis, and was four points from making the final. That suggests Acuña was a higher quality opponent than Luis Perez of the Dominican Republic, who was Beltran’s opponent in the quarters; Beltran won that match in two straight games.

We’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine the validity of that logic.

On the women’s side, Mexico will send Paola Longoria, Monserrat Mejia, Samantha Salas and Alexandra Herrera. Mejia defeated Longoria to win the Mexican National Championship, so was the top player in Women’s Singles at the Pan Am Championships, but like Landa, she lost in the quarters, while Longoria won the event. Thus, Mexico is putting Longoria as their #1 player in Lima, using the same kind of logic as on the men’s side. Longoria and Salas will play doubles.

Team USA will be Jake Bredenbeck, Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt in men’s play, with Kelani Lawrence and Rhonda Rajsich in women’s play. Bredenbeck should play Men’s Singles with Carson and Pratt playing Men’s Doubles, but we’re not sure which of them will be the 2nd singles player. Lawrence and Rajsich will play both singles and doubles.

Bolivia qualified four men for Lima, but they only sent three to the Pan Am Championships. Carlos Keller and Conrrado Moscoso played Men’s Singles in Barranquilla, with Keller winning gold, and Moscoso and Roland Keller played Men’s Doubles, winning the title by beating Canadians Iwaasa and Murray in the final. We anticipate that Valeria Centellas and Yazmine Sabja will represent Bolivia in Women’s Doubles, as they are the current Women’s Doubles World Champions, and were bronze medalists in Women’s Doubles team at the 2019 Pan Am Championships, when Centellas also played Women’s Singles with Angelica Barrios.

Canada will be represented by Coby Iwaasa and Samuel Murray playing both Men’s Singles and Doubles, and Frédérique Lambert and Jen Saunders playing both Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles.

Also of note, Gabriela Martinez of Guatemala, who is the current Women’s Singles World Champion but seemed to indicate that she was stepping away from racquetball earlier this year, seems like she has been in training to represent Guatemala in Lima.

Follow the bouncing ball….