A successful first for rowing at the Pan Am Youth games

Fifty years ago in 1971, rowers took to the waters on Lago Calima in Colombia as part of the PanAmerican Games.  Earlier this month the PanAmerican Games returned to Lago Calima but this time in the form of the first Panam Junior Games Cali 2021.  Rowers from 14 countries competed in the rowing competition in the Men’s and Women’s 1x, 2x, 4x, 2- and 4-.  While billed as the Junior Games, the rowing competition was an Under-23 event.

PanAm Sports created the Panam Junior Games with the goal of providing athletes with an opportunity to compete and develop in the continent.  Their plan is to track the progress of the athletes participating in the Junior Games.  To provide incentive for the athletes, the athlete who wins designated events earned entries in the 2023 Santiago Senior Panam Games which will take place in October of 2023 in Santiago, Chile.  For rowing, these designated events were the Men’s and Women’s 1x.

The number of athletes participating in the Panam Junior games was controlled through quotas.  For rowing the quota was set at 96 athletes (48 women and 48 men).  Athletes rowing in the 1x, 2x and 2- were required to also compete in the 4x and the 4-.   In order to comply with these limitations, a qualification regatta was held in May 2021 in the Mexican State of the Yucatan.

The majority of the competition for the 39 sports included in the first Panam Junior Games took place in Cali, Colombia.  The competitions for flat water Canoe/Kayak, Rowing, Sailing and Triathlon took place at Lago Calima in Darién in the Valle del Cauca Department.  The Lago is nestled in the mountains 100 kilometers north of Cali at an elevation of 1500 meters.  It is known as a premiere location for kite and wind surfing, however, the winds die for several hours in the mornings which allows the “flat water” events.  In addition to the wind, the depth of the water (80 meters are the start and deeper at the finish) adds to complexity of running events on the Lago.  Athletes were housed at a resort hotel at the finish line of the rowing course.

Despite the challenges presented by the venue, the 4 day race program provided the spectators with some great racing.  Uruguay led the medal count for the event taking home 6 gold medals, 1 sliver and 2 bronze medals.  Paraguay, Mexico and Chile followed in the medal count.

In the first medal event, the Chilean W4- composed of Antonia Liwald, Gabriela Paz, Isadora Niemeyer and Magdalena Nanning took the gold medal.  Devanih Plata, Lilian Armenta, Maria Sheccid and Mildred Mercado representing Mexico took the silver and the Uruguay placed in third for the bronze medal.  Paulina Centurion, Valeria Olivera, Yuliana Etchebame  and Zoe Acosta were in the Uruguay boat. 

In the M4- Uruguay took the gold medal. Uruguay was represented by Felipe Kluver, Leandro Rodas, Martin Zocalo and Newton Seawright.  The Paraguay crew composed of Daniel Villalba, Gustavo Avalos, Ivan Estigarribia and Nicolas Villalba claimed silver and Emilio Garcia, Gabriel Diaz, Julio Lopez and Luiz Fernando Garcia from Mexico took the bronze medal.

Uruguay’s Leandro Rodas and Martin Zocalo claimed the Gold medal in the Men’s 2-.  The Mexican pair of Gabriel Diaz and Julio Antoni Lopez came in second with Paraguay’s Daniel Villalba and Nicolas Villalba taking the bronze medal.  In the Women’s 2-, Yuliana Etchebame and Zoe Acosta completed the Uruguay dominance in the pairs defeating Mexico’s Devanih Plata and Lilian Armeta and Chile’s Antonia Liewald and Isidora Niemeyer who finish in second and third respectively.

In the M1x, Paraguay’s Javier Andres Insfran Torres earned the ticket to the Santiago Panam Games by finishing first.  Brazil’s Tomas Garcia Levy came in second with Carlos Andriel Ajete Jauregui taking third.   On the women’s side Nicole Anahi Martinez Gonzalez took the gold and the qualifying spot for Santiago in the W1x.  She was followed across the line by Peru’s Francesca Gardella Bozzo and Uruguay’s Tatiana Seijas Yalmorchuk.

In the 4x Uruguay swept both the men’s and women’s events. The Uruguayan women’s crew was composed of Cloe Callorda, Romina Cetraro, Tatiana Seijas and Zoe Acosta while Felipe Kluver, Leandro Rodas, Martin Zocalo and Eric Seawright competed on the men’s crew.  Mexico claimed the silver medals in both the 4x.  Aylin Ibarra, Mildred Mercado, Monica Garcia and Ximena Castellanos representing Mexico the W4x and Adolfo Peralta, Hugo Reyes, Jordy Gutierrez and Tomas Manzanillo competed for Mexico in the M4x.  The Ecuador W4x crew composed of Domenique Murrieta, Helen Gonzalez, Iulia Solano and Kerly Salazar finish in the bronze position.  In the M4x, the Peruvian crew of Andres Sandoval, Angel Battons, Cesar Enrique Cipriani and Sandro Gardella took the bronze.

Uruguay again claimed the gold medal in the M2x represented by Felipe Kluver and Luciano Garcia.  The Mexican crew of Hugo Reyes and Jordy Gutierrez took the silver medal.  Angel Battons and Cesar Cipriana representing Peru captured the bronze medal.

In the final event of the regatta, the W2x, Mexico’s Aylin Ibarra and Milred Mercado crossed the finish line in first place for the gold medal.  The Uruguay crew composed of Cloe Callorda and Ynela Aires went home with the silver medal.  The host country, Colombia, took the bronze.  Erika Pineda and Zulay Gil represented Colombia.

One of the challenges of holding the competition in Colombia was the supply of boats for the event.  The global supply transportation issues made it difficult for Federations bring in their own boats for the event.  With rowing being a developing sport in Colombia, there are not a lot of clubs to rely on to supply boats for the competition.  The Colombian government had purchased some small boats for previous events held in the country such as the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, however there was a lack of larger boats and some of the small boats required repairs.  World Rowing’s Americas Development team of Osvaldo Borchi and Reuben Scarpati took on the repairs of the existing boats.  To fill the gap in required boats, the Peruvian Rowing Federation agreed to send the needed larger boats to Cali.  A trio of Aldo Coz, Claudio Aguila and Dante Coz drove a trailer 2,520 kilometers from Lima, Peru, to Lago Calima with these boats.

Another challenge that faced the organizers of the Cali Games was the staffing of the National Technical Officials (NTOs) for rowing. NTOs should be knowledgeable about the sport and the rules of the sport.  For many events the NTO’s are pulled from the national umpiring pool.  However, at the beginning of 2021 in Colombia, there were no national umpires. The goal became not only to train NTO’s for the Games but to leave a lasting legacy of a licensed umpire corps in Colombia.  This task was taken on by the President of the Jury Estanislao Ramirez (CHI) and Santiago Fuentes (MEX).  Through on-line clinics conducted by Ramirez followed by in person training by Fuentes, 15 NTO candidates took up the challenge.  At the end of the Games in a special ceremony, the International Jury had the privilege of presenting umpiring licenses to the first 15 Colombia national rowing umpires.