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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Andre De Grasse and Jamaica's Sherone Simpson won their respective 100 meters finals at the Pan American Games on Wednesday while St. Lucia enjoyed a landmark moment at the multi-sport competition.
De Grasse, Canada's newest sprinting sensation, took the men's final in 10.05 seconds in front of his home crowd while three-times Olympic medalist Simpson crossed the line in a season-best 10.95.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete at home in front of relatives and friends," De Grasse, who will also compete in the 200m and 4x100m relay, told reporters.
"I feel like I've got my first senior national medal, and at home, so that's a great feeling."
Ramon Gittens of the Barbados finished second with a season-best 10.07 while Antoine Adams of St. Kitts and Nevis was third in 10.09, also his fastest of the season.
De Grasse emerged this year as Canada's biggest sprinting sensation since Donovan Bailey, who won the 100m gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics with a then-world record time of 9.84.
He has covered 100m in under 10 seconds three times this year and is putting Canadian sprinting back on the map.
Simpson showed solid form in holding off Ecuador's Angela Tenorio (silver) and American Barbara Pierre (bronze) but felt there was still work to be done before moving on to the Aug. 22-30 world athletics championships in Beijing.
"I tried to keep my composure and just ensure that I was relaxed in the last 20 meters of the race," said Simpson.
"Now I just need to get back to work and improve what I have to improve for the world championships."
The United States held their lead in the medals race by upping their gold medal tally to 76 and 201 overall. Canada were second with 64 gold and 173 overall.
Levern Spencer won the women's high jump to give St. Lucia their first gold medal in six appearances at the multi-sport competition between countries from North America, Latin America, South America and the Caribbean.
Spencer, who represented her country in the last two Olympics, cleared 1.94m to secure the gold ahead of Antigua and Barbuda's Priscilla Frederick and Barbados' Akela Jones.
"No other St. Lucian has ever won a gold at a Pan Am so it's a great honor and I'm just happy to get a gold medal for my country," Spencer, who won a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan Ams in Rio de Janeiro, told reporters.
Waterski and wakeboard, one of the eight Pan Am sports not part of the Olympics program, had its day in the spotlight as the first medals were awarded.
Chile's Felipe Miranda won the men's water ski overall event while Canada's Whitney McClintock won gold in the women's competition.
American cyclist Kelly Catlin captured the gold medal in the women's individual time trial but the 19-year-old said after that she was unsure whether she wanted to stay in the sport or focus entirely on her university studies.
Catlin, who is working toward a double major in biomedical engineering and Chinese, previously trained in athletics and soccer but switched to cycling after suffering stress fractures in both legs three years ago.
"I really like being a college student so it's really hard because it's hard to be a professional athlete and a college student at the same time," said Catlin, who was only added to the event because the U.S. did not have a big enough road squad.
"It's been hard for me to choose. Do I put a priority on cycling or schoolwork? I'm still trying to figure it out."
Editing by Greg Stutchbury