Team USA at the Pan American Games
The 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile the second largest event for pentathletes behind the Olympic Games and a direct qualifier for the Paris 2024 Summer Games has finished. Team USA was represented by 3 women and two men who qualified by a lengthy process starting last year with the first USAPM Qualifier. The women led by National Champion, Jessica Davis and teammates Phaelen French, and Heidi Hendrick were joined by National Champion Brendan Anderson and Tristen Bell to round out the team. All athletes had one goal at these Games, to win one of the direct Paris 2024 Olympic tickets up for grabs.
Day 1: Women's Fencing Ranking Round
The PanAm Games Modern Pentathlon event kicked off with an exciting start on day one, featuring the women's Fencing Ranking Round. Team USA faced off against their fellow competitors in a field of 33. The morning session was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, with French and Davis finishing tied for third and fourth place, while Hendrick secured the 21st position.
Reflecting on her performance, Davis said, "It was a great first day of competition with highs and lows, but ultimately, I'm very happy with where it placed me for the semi-finals."
The men's team faced a challenging start but rallied in their last 10 bouts, finishing 14th and 16th, just shy of the top three with a large group of athletes tying with the same score. This close competition promised an exciting semi-final race with multiple lead changes expected.
Both the women and men were set to compete the next day, starting with the fencing bonus round, followed by swimming, and concluding with the laser run. Their goal was to secure a spot in the top 9 of their groups to advance to the Final event on Monday. Team USA fans were eagerly awaiting more thrilling action.
Day 2: Women's and Men’s Semi-Finals
In Women's Semi-Final group A, Team USA's Phaelen French shone as the sole athlete from her group starting in 4th place after the previous day's fencing ranking round. French showcased her prowess with two bonus round victories and a solid swim time of 2:38, positioning herself in 5th place for the laser run. Known for her aggressive running style, French charged ahead in the first 600m, passing several competitors. Although she faced difficulty with the last target in the first shooting series where several athletes passed her she displayed strong running and consistent shooting in the remaining laps securing a top 9 position and finishing 6th overall in semi-final group A. This achievement also put her in contention for a direct qualification spot for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Next, Team USA's Jessica Davis and Heidi Hendrick were set to tackle Group B, both looking for a top 9 position. Starting with the bonus round where they faced stiff competition, both athletes lost their bouts putting them in 4th and 7th place. Despite the initial setback, Hendrick showcased her swimming skills with a time of 2:20, while Davis finished in 2:30. Both athletes were positioned in the top 9 as they headed into the laser run, setting the stage for a closely contested final event. Davis began the last event in 4th place, just 7 seconds behind the leader, while Hendrick was in 7th place, trailing by 17 seconds. The race was far from over, and spectators eagerly awaited the outcome of this intense competition. Both Jessica Davis and Heidi Hendrick closed out Group B's laser run with consistent shooting and running among the athletes with Davis moving up one position from 4th to 3rd to secure her spot while Hendricks dropped from 7th to 10th narrowly missing the 9th place threshold to advance to the Finals.
Next up, the Men's Semi-Final Group A saw Team USA's Brendan Anderson deliver an exhilarating performance in the laser run. Despite missing a touch in the bonus round, Anderson's strong swim, clocking in at 2:11, placed him in 6th place overall at the start of the laser run. With remarkable consistency in his running and shooting, Anderson maintained his 6th-place position, securing a spot in the highly anticipated Finals.
The focus then shifted to the Men's Semi-Final Group B, where Team USA's Tristen Bell prepared to compete for a top 9 position and a chance at the Finals. Bell's journey featured a win in his first bonus round bout, followed by a close miss in the second touch. His strong performance in the fencing event earned him crucial points, and a 2:16 swim time positioned him in 8th place heading into the laser run. With a strong run, Bell swiftly moved up the ranks, joining the group consisting of athletes in 3rd through 5th place. This impressive effort secured his place in the Finals, offering him a shot at a direct qualification spot for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Day 3- Women’s and Men’s Final
The Women's Final at the 2023 PanAm Games has finished with an outstanding effort from both Team USA athletes Jessica Davis and Phaelen French who fought against the top 18 women from these Games. Starting the morning with the riding event where many athletes had challenges getting around the course both Davis and French under the eye of USAPM riding coach Jeepers Ragsdale were able to complete it scoring 279 and 287 points, respectively. Both athletes swam strong putting Davis in 6th place and French in 9th place at the start of the laser run 37 seconds and 46 seconds behind the leader. Both USA athletes ran strong with consistent shooting holding off the field and moving up in position. Jessica Davis finished 4th overall and punched her ticket to the Paris Olympic Games with Phaelen French moving up to 7th place and earning valuable Olympic ranking points for next year.
The Men's Final was next where Brendan Anderson and Tristen Bell were competing for one of the coveted North American Paris Olympic qualification spots Both men worked hard to overcome the fencing ranking round-robin scores which carry over to the semi-finals and finals. Starting the day with riding, Anderson rode for 279 and Bell rode for 293 which positioned them in the second heat of the swim. Anderson swam a 2:13 for 283 points and Bell swam a 2:17 for 276 points which put both athletes in the top 11 for the start of the laser run and close to their goal of a qualifying spot for Paris 2024.
At the start of the laser run Tristen Bell was in 8th 1:07 behind the leader and Brendan Anderson started in 11th 1:14 back, both within striking distance. By the last lap, Anderson had worked his way up to 8th position but with an incredible last shooting series he flew into 6th place with Bell not far behind in 11th. Anderson was able to maintain his 6th place position until the last 150m where he was overtaken by the Guatemalan athlete Andrea finishing 7th and narrowly missing a Paris 2024 ticket. Bell maintained his position and finished 11th overall in his first PanAm Games. This event will carry significant points for both athletes as they head into the 2024 World Cup season and the official start of the Olympic Ranking selection.
Day 4- Rest Day
Day 5: Mixed Relay
After 3 days of events and one rest day, these PanAm Games were underway again with the Mixed Relay and the powerhouse duo of Jessica Davis and Brendan Anderson. The day commenced with the fencing ranking round, where 12 teams competed for the coveted gold medal. Team USA stood in 6th place after the ranking event, trailing the leader by 16 points, setting the stage for a competitive day. After the bonus round, swim, and ride Team USA was ranked in 4th place overall heading into the laser-run where they would have to lay it on the line to clinch the first medal at these Games. In an exhilarating race, Team USA’s Davis and Anderson jockeyed between the top teams to run themselves into second place in the final lap and by the end of the race securing the 3rd position overall.
Day 6: Women's Relay
On the sixth day of the PanAm Games Modern Pentathlon event, it was the women's relay's turn to shine. Team USA was represented by Phaelen French and Heidi Hendrick, competing against top teams from the PanAm region. The day began with the fencing ranking round, where French and Hendrick finished 7th and earned 4 points in the bonus round. Swimming followed, with the team securing a 3rd-place finish overall. The riding event posed challenges for many teams, resulting in the elimination of six teams, including Team USA. Despite this setback, the team maintained their 7th-place position as they entered the laser run, showing their resilience and determination.
Day 7: Men's Relay
The last day of the Modern Pentathlon at the PanAm Games concluded with the Men’s Relay where Brendan Anderson and Tristen Bell stayed close to the medal stand all day starting with their strong fence in the ranking round finishing 4th. Heading into the bonus round where valuable points are up for grabs they narrowly missed advancing in the bonus round leaving them tied for 5th.
The equestrian portion of the event once again took its toll on many teams but Anderson and Bell seized the opportunity to win the ride which placed them tied for first going into the swim. The team swam a combined time of 2:01 for 7th place overall going into the final event in 3rd. The laser run is always an exciting event and today was no different with lead changes, fast shooting, and close finishes. Bell started the laser run in 3rd and after the second shooting series ran his way into the lead for a brief period then with a strong last shoot and run came into the transition in a close group of the top 4 teams. Anderson took off with a speedy first lap coming into the shoot in second which he maintained throughout the final laps to hold off a strong surge from Ecuador to take the Silver medal!
Team USA finished these Games with Jessica Davis qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, a Bronze medal from the Mixed Relay team of Jessica Davis and Brendan Anderson, and a Silver medal in the Men’s Relay of Brendan Anderson and Tristen Bell.
Congratulations to all of the athletes and Good Luck to Team USA as they start their preparations for the 2024 season.
Team USA At Pan Am Games