July 13, 2015 / 3:20 AM / 4 years ago

Pan Am gold rush continues for Canada

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada swept the Pan American Games gold medals in both the men’s and women’s rugby sevens and mountain bike events on Sunday, to fight off a challenge from the mighty Americans at the top of the medal table.

Jul 11, 2015; Welland, Ontario, CAN; (left to right) Michelle Russell, Emilie Fournel, KC Fraser and Hannah Vaughan of Canada celebrate winning in the Women K4 500m Final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Welland Pan Am Flatwater Centre. Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The hosts have enjoyed a stunning start to the 16-day multi-sport extravaganza that began with a dazzling opening ceremony on Friday and has continued through the weekend with an unexpected gold rush.

Canada’s women spotted the United States an early try then shifted into top gear to win 55-7 before turning over the stage to the men, who fought back to beat Argentina 22-19.

Emily Batty and Raphael Gagne gave another large crowd at the Hardwood mountain bike park something to cheer, riding away with both golds, while diver Jennifer Abel topped the podium in the women’s three meter springboard.

Lynda Kiejko hit the mark in the women’s 10m air pistol to bring Canada’s gold medal haul to 10 and overall total to 24.

The United States have dominated the Pan Am medal table at every Games since 1955, winning over 2,000 more medals than any other country, but have not been able to push their northern neighbors out of top spot yet.

Chip Peterson in the 10km open water swim, Marti Malloy in the women’s judo 57kg weight class, and the women’s artistic gymnastics and dressage teams all collected wins to bring the U.S. gold total to seven and 19 overall, good for second place.

Colombia and Brazil both have 13 after two days of competition.

Brazilian shooter Felipe Almeida Wu, Mexican triathlete Crisanto Grajales, the U.S. men’s dressage team and Canada’s Abel all had double reason to celebrate after taking gold in their respective events and securing an automatic qualifying spot at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

No athlete was celebrating more than Peterson, who returned to the top of the podium after years of treatment and surgery for congenital ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel condition that nearly ended his career.

Peterson’s victory comes eight years after taking gold in the 1,500 and silver in the 10km at the 2007 Rio Pan Am Games and a full decade since he burst onto the scene with a victory over the 10km distance at the 2005 world championships.

“This is the first major international competition that I’ve qualified for since 2010 and that’s post-surgery, post taking an entire year out of the water,” said Peterson. “It would be a fantastic point in my career to have a good result after all of that.”

Colombia continued its domination of the weightlifting competition, Rusmeris Villar Barboza taking top spot in the women’s 53kg weight class, Lozano Mosquera in the men’s 69kg division and Lina Rivas Ordonez in the women’s 58kg.

Five of Colombia’s six gold have now come at the weightlifting hall.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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