Reasons for optimism and causes for concern
At least from a Bermudian perspective, the Pan American Games were never likely to scale the scintillating highs of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last year where Flora Duffy stormed to victory in the triathlon.
In the absence of Duffy, who missed Lima because of her troublesome foot, the island’s chances of another momentous medal moment were always going to be slim.
It was left to Tyrone Smith, so often Bermuda’s nearly man, to carry the nation’s podium hopes, but the long jumper’s ambitions went up in smoke when he injured his hamstring in the medal round and had to settle for fifth.
With Smith, who turned 35 on the day of his competition, already preparing for life after athletics, starting his MBA at the University of Texas in Austin last week, his goal of reaching a fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer have become significantly more difficult.
Whether Bermuda are represented in athletics at all in Tokyo could depend on Jah-Nhai Perinchief’s transition from high jump to triple jump after switching events because of consistent injuries.
Although several of the island’s athletes underachieved in Lima, there were some shafts of light to pierce the perpetual grey skies that loom over the Peruvian capital.
No more so than Caitlin Conyers, competing at her first major international competition, who produced feel-good, top-ten performances in both the time-trial and road race.
Conyers has laid a strong foundations to build upon with a view to competing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, in 2022.
And with talented youngsters such as Kaden Hopkins, Conor White, Nicholas Narraway and Alyssa Rowse following in Conyers’s slipstream, Bermuda cycling appears to be in good health.
Triathlon, too, looks to be in reasonable shape (fingers crossed Duffy, the island’s one truly world-class athlete, can come through the Tokyo Test Event this month unscathed).
Duffy’s understudy Erica Hawley might not have achieved the top-15 finish she craved in Lima, placing 21st after a challenging swim, but the 21-year-old has time on her side and showed her mettle at the Commonwealth Games.
Hopefully fellow triathlete Tyler Smith can make a full recovery from the injury that forced him to miss Lima; however, Tokyo may be a stroke, pedal and stride too far for the pair at this stage of their development.
Mitigating factors likely contributed to the tired-looking displays by swimmers Madelyn Moore and a particularly disheartened Jesse Washington.
Both swam at the Aquatics World Championships in Gangju, South Korea, during the build up to Lima and had just days to recover over Cup Match before boarding another long flight to South America.
Traversing multiple time zones en route to back-to-back competitions seemed to take its toll on Moore and Washington, who were experiencing their first major multi-sport event.
Neither threatened to set personal bests although Moore did qualify for the B final in the 50 metres freestyle, which she considers her strongest event.
Despite their disappointment, the pair will have learnt plenty from their hectic summer and, along with teenage sensation Elan Daley, should form the backbone of Bermudian swimming for years to come.
Micah Franklin was another member of Bermuda’s team who should feel mightily proud of his gutsy displays after claiming three wins in all competitions on the squash court.
Franklin was undoubtedly the pick of the island’s trio of Noah Browne and “old-timer” Nick Kyme, who made a welcome return to the international fold after a career-threatening calf injury.
Browne did not play to his full potential although he did suffer a broken wrist just months before the Games and also had to contend with a stomach issue after a reaction to the antihistamines he was taking for his injury.
There was also a mixed bag of results in sailing, with siblings Cecilia and Michael Wollmann clicking into gear on occasions in the Nacra 17 class, finishing fifth in their final race to come eighth overall.
Meanwhile, Benn Smith has vowed to re-evaluate his training methods and preparation after being discouraged by his seventeenth-place finish in the Lasers.
Smith and the Wollmanns will now turn their focus to the Ample World Cup Series Miami in Key Biscayne, Florida, in January, which is a key qualifier for the Olympics.
Had it not been for a disjointed first block by bowler Damien Matthews in the men’s doubles then maybe a medal could have wended its way back to Bermuda after all.
As it was, Matthews and David Maycock had to be content with eighth place after mounting a recovery on the final day of the event to claw their way up the standings.
It is fair to say the 2019 Pan Am Games will not be remembered with the same fondness as the Commonwealth Games where Duffy struck gold 14 months earlier.
There were, however, reasons to be optimistic and, perhaps, a few causes for concern as well.
With Tokyo less than a year away, one cannot help but wonder how many of Bermuda’s team in Lima, discounting bowling and squash, neither of which are Olympic sports, will make it to the Land of the Rising Sun.
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