Canadian athlete Katzberg shines again, and the United States ends up dominating athletics © Getty Images

The track and field competition at the Pan Am Games came to a close on Saturday,with the United States winning the medal count with eight gold medals, thanks to Curtis Thompson's triumph in the final event (men's javelin). His victory broke a seven-gold-medal tie between the USA, Brazil and Cuba.

At the start of the summer of 2021, 19-year-old Canadian Ethan Katzberg, born in British Columbia and the son of a hammer throw coach, was relatively unknown to the general public, especially after his three fouls at the 2021 World U20 Championships. 

With a remarkable physique and a slightly awkward appearance, characterised by his now famous mane, the 1.98m, 110kg athlete emerged last year with a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. In August of the same year, he made history in Budapest.

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Katzberg entered the World Championships with the ninth best mark of all competitors (78.83), but he smashed that with a national record in the qualifying round (81.18). He topped that in the final to win an unexpected gold medal with a best throw of 81.25.

Continuing his magical season, Katzberg has now reigned supreme at Santiago 2023 with an outstanding best throw of 80.96 metres (a new Pan Am Games record) in the hammer throw final. He was followed by Americans Daniel Haugh (77.62) and Rudy Winkler (76.65).

The other main event of the day was the Mixed Relay Walking Marathon (42,195m), which featured notable competitors such as Peru's Kimberly García León (the 20 km and 35km world champion at Eugene 2022 and current silver medallist in the long distance). Also in the mix were Brazil's Caio Bonfim (20km bronze at the last Worlds), Colombia's Sandra Arenas (20 km silver at the last Olympics), and Ecuador's favourites Glenda Morejón (U18 world champion six years ago) and Bryan Pintado (35km silver at the last Worlds).

As expected, Ecuador dominated widely their rivals, leading by more than half a minute at the ten kilometre mark (39:30), with Pintado covering the distance in 1h:26.28 and Peru's César Rodríguez finished second (1h:27.50). Their lead continued to grow thanks to the amazing performance of Morejón, who crossed the line in 2h:56.49 to claim a well-deserved gold medal ahead of Peru's Kimberly León (3:01:14) and the Brazilian duo of Bonfim and Viviane Santana (3:02:14).

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

In the men's pole vault final, the predictions were fulfilled, although perhaps more was expected from American Matt Ludwig's 5.55m, especially considering he cleared 5.87m earlier this year. Argentine veteran Germán Chiaraviglio took silver with 5.50 metres, earning his third medal after bronze in 2007 and silver in 2015, while Mexican Jorge Luna secured third place with 5.40. American Bradford finished seventh with a disappointing 5.20 meters (his personal best is 5.87, set in 2023).

The women's 800 metres looked set for a Cuban victory, with Rose Mary Almanza considered a strong contender. However, she had to settle for bronze settled for bronze in 2:03.68, behind Uruguay's Deborah Rodríguez (2:02.88) and her compatriot Sahily Diago (2:02.71), who won her first major gold after six silver medals in American competitions.

In the men's event, Venezuela's José Antonio Maita arrived with the fifth-best mark among the finalists and surprised everyone by winning in 1:45.69, followed by Mexican favourite Jesús López (1:46.04) and Jamaica's Navasky Anderson (1:46.40). American Rachel McCoy won the women's high jump with a modest 1.87 metres, followed by Colombia's Jennifer Rodríguez (1.84) and Dominican Marisabel Senyu (1.81).

In the 3,000m steeplechase, Argentina's Belén Casetta hadn't run under 10 minutes all year, but she exceeded expectations to win in a Panam Games record (9:39.47). She was followed by Canada's Alycia Butterworth (9:40.86) and Brazil's Tatiane Da Silva (9:41.29). In the men's race, Canadian Jean-simon Descagnes secured gold in 8:30.14, ahead of American Daniel Michalski (8:36.47) and Colombian Carlos San Martín (8:41.59).

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Finally, Cuba won the women's 4x400m relay with Almanza and Diago in 3:33.15, with the Dominican Republic second in 3:34.27 and Brazil third in 3:34.80. The men's race was won by Brazil in 3:03.92, followed by a strong Mexico (3:04.22) and the Dominican Republic (3:05.98).

All eyes were on the final showdown between Curtis Thompson and Brazil's Pedro Nunes for the lead in the overall medal count. With gold already secured, the American unleashed his final throw to extend his mark to 79.65 metres -120 centimetres further than the Brazilian. Despite the absence of some of their top athletes and the use of second-stringers in some cases, the dominance of the world's leading powerhouse in sport enabled them to triumph. Guyana's Leslain Baird finished third place with a throw of 78.23 metres.