USA Shines at First Junior Pan American Games
by Alyssa Jacobs, USA Artistic Swimming
CALI, Colombia - The first-ever Junior Pan American Games for artistic swimming wrapped up in a spectacular fashion on Saturday evening. After three days of competition across four medal categories, the US tied with Mexico for total medals won. The team, led by Ludi Perrin-Stsepaniuk and Monica Velazquez-Stiak, displayed technically strong and difficult routines in the female duet, mixed duet, team and highlight categories. The schedule was full of early mornings and long nights, but the athletes persevered and put USA excellence on full-display.
USA came out on top in the mixed duet category. JPAG marks the first time the event has been included in an Olympic-related event, given the ties to the Pan American continental qualifier for the Olympic Games. This marks a huge step forward in inclusion and an exciting moment for our male swimmers, and Kenny Gaudet and Ivy Davis were a huge part of it. Gaudet and Davis paired for two high-energy duets; the technical portion to a version of “Hit the Road Jack” and their free performance to the tune of a k-pop hit. Their personality and charisma shined as they secured high marks in the impression category and topped the leader board in both tech and free. The greatest separation between the pair and second-place Mexico came in the artistic impression category of their free routine. Together, Guadet and Davis were crowned the first Junior Pan American Games Mixed Duet Champions with a total score of 154.0606 ahead of Mexico with 152.4413 and Brazil with 142.3841.
The junior duet displayed two technically exquisite performances, utilizing the same choreography as their senior counterparts that competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. They rose to the challenge of the difficult routines and came in second in both the technical and free portions of the competition. Megumi Field and Anya Melson were awarded a 78.1328 for their instrumental tech performance and 78.9333 for their Billie Eilish free routine. In both categories, Field and Melson trailed Mexico and topped Brazil to place second. In total, the pair earned a silver medal in the most competitive category of the competition with a total score of 157.0661.
The eight team athletes worked hard to unify their technique, style and spirits and were awarded with two podium appearances for their efforts. The team took the same approach as the female duet, and utilized the iconic choreography the senior national team competed at Olympic qualifiers. The squad ended the technical competition just .1 behind Mexico, tying in two of the three categories.A gold medal was within reach with a fierce performance in free, but Mexico's high-flying lifts boosted their scores. The team secured a silver medal with 162.6907 points, ending just 1.2 behind Mexico. The host country of Colombia finished 12.2 points behind in third. To close out the competition, the junior team put on a show and showed their American spirit to the tune of Elvis Presley. Their final performance earned them another silver medal and a score of 79.4000.
The medal count ended with Mexico and USA tied at four and Colombia and Brazil following with two each. USA finished second in the gold medal standings for artistic swimming with one. Full results can be found on the Cali 2021 website HERE. The athletes left it all in the pool and made history at the first Junior Pan American Championships. The national team program will now focus on selecting a senior duet and mixed duet and focus on developing team routines ahead of the 2022 World Series circuit and FINA World Artistic Swimming Championship.