The Pan American Championships began on Friday with the men’s competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the host country and the United States each picked up an additional non-nominative berth to the Olympic Games after both qualifying full teams at world championships in 2019.
Caio Souza led the all-around competition with an 84.450 to win gold, but as a member of Brazil’s worlds team in 2019, he wasn’t eligible to earn a spot for his country here. Instead, it was his 19-year-old teammate Diogo Soares, who won all-around and high bar medals at the Youth Olympic Games medals in 2018 and the silver on rings at the inaugural junior world championships a year later, who made sure Brazil would get an additional spot in Tokyo with a bronze medal all-around performance and a score of 82.700.
Both Souza and Soares had fantastic days, leading the Brazilian team to the gold medal in addition to winning all-around hardware and securing the Olympics berth. They were joined by Tomas Florencio, who was seventh with an 81.050, as well as veterans Arthur Mariano on three events and Francisco Barretto on two.
Just ahead of Soares was Paul Juda, a young senior from the United States who won the silver in the all-around with an 83.000 to win the spot for the U.S. men. Juda put up some incredible performances on all six apparatuses, and was rewarded with high E scores across the board, including an 8.9 on floor and a 9.6 on vault.
Juda competed alongside Riley Loos, Vitaliy Guimaraes, and Cameron Bock, who placed fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively. This was an incredibly young team, with Bock the oldest at 22, and they lacked the difficulty shown in many of the Brazilian routines, but they all performed admirably with only a few mistakes to win the silver medal as a team.
Both the U.S. and Brazil have talented event specialists who may not work in the context of a four-member team, but who could potentially make apparatus finals or even medal in Tokyo, and both countries will likely use their additional spots for competitors like these. Brazil’s Arthur Zanetti should be the main contender for what he can do on rings, while the U.S. has a few guys in the mix, including Stephen Nedoroscik and Alec Yoder on pommels, Gage Dyer and Eddie Penev on floor and vault, and Alex Diab and Brandon Wynn on rings, so these spots will open up some room for guys who might not be considered otherwise.
The highest-scoring all-arounder outside of the Brazilians and Americans was Javier Sandoval of Colombia, who finished eighth with an 80.750, a little over a point ahead of teammate Jossimar Calvo. Colombia was hoping to pick up a nominative Olympic spot here, with 2016 Olympic all-around finalist Calvo the favorite, but it was unfortunately a rough day for him, especially on parallel bars, typically a key event for him.
The Colombian team – which also included Jose Martinez, Kristopher Bohorquez, and Jose Toro – did finish with the bronze team medal as a consolation prize, though having not qualified anyone to Tokyo previously, it clearly wasn’t ideal.
Other teams competing here included Argentina in fourth, Mexico in fifth, Chile in sixth, and the Dominican Republic in seventh.
Friday’s meet served as the final continental Olympic qualifier for the men. Previous berths were awarded to Omar Mohamed of Egypt and Uche Eke of Nigera at the African Championships, Adem Asil of Turkey and the Russian federation at European Championships, and Mikhail Koudinov of New Zealand at the Oceania Championships, while Asia’s two additional berths were reallocated to Loo Phay Xing of Malaysia and Yogeshwar Singh of India, the Asian men who were next in line to qualify at worlds in 2019, with the cancellation of this year’s Asian Championships due to COVID-19.
The women’s competition will be held tomorrow, with Rebeca Andrade of Brazil the top choice for an additional Olympic spot for her country. Because Brazil didn’t qualify a team in 2019, with Flavia Saraiva the nation’s sole qualifier, Andrade is eligible to win the spot nominatively, meaning it will belong to her and not to the Brazilian team.
Andrade has some talented teammates in the mix, including Ana Luiza Lima, Lorrane Oiveira, and Julia Soares, so if Andrade for whatever reason is unable to earn the spot, Brazil should have someone ready to go in her place.
Argentina has the most potential to earn an Olympic berth outside of Brazil, with Luna Fernandez, Abigail Magistrati, and first-year seniors Rocio Saucedo and Brisa Carraro of Argentina all eligible, while Mexico’s Paulina Campos should put up a strong competition, and then former U.S. junior elite Annalise Newman-Achee, 15, is now representing Trinidad & Tobago, and she could definitely end up being a threat if she looks as good as she has in the past.
Article by Lauren Hopkins