The 2011 Pan-American Games get underway today in Guadalajara, Mexico, and for many athletes it’s another huge step towards the 2012 Olympics in London next summer. The PanAm games serve as a qualifying event for a number Olympic sports, and many of Canada’s 493 athletes will be working towards earning those places for London.
Some of the sports Canada can qualify an Olympic berth include…
- men’s and women’s triathlon
- men’s diving
- synchronized swimming
- men’s and women’s waterpolo
- sprint canoe and kayak
- and more!
Because of the odd timing of the PanAms this year – the games are usually held in July and August, but it can be a tad hot in Mexico in the middle of the summer – quite a few of the top athletes who will be going to the Olympics are taking a pass on Guadalajara because it comes after the end of their sport’s usual season. But for those who are going it’s an important warmup before the big show in London next summer, both athletically and psychologically. The PanAm games are one of the biggest sporting events outside of the Olympic games and a crucial step in the learning process for young athletes. Christine Sinclair, captain of Canada’s national women’s soccer team, spoke about how special the PanAm games are to her and how important they were for her development as an athlete when she was named flagbearer for the opening ceremonies in Guadalajara. Sinclair first competed on the international stage for Canada in 2007 at the PanAm games in Rio de Janeiro and credits that experience with preparing her for further competition at the Olympic and World Cup level.
The PanAm experience will be just as important for athletes who aren’t trying to lock up Olympic spots, like Sinclair’s soccer team. After a disastrous World Cup in Germany this past summer, Sinclair said the team is using the PanAm tournament to prepare for the next stage of Olympic qualifying that they will face. Other sports federations use the PanAms as a testing ground for up-and-coming athletes in their dvelopment programs to give them that elite level international competition they can build on towards future Olympic games.
Sinclair will lead Canada’s team in to the Guadalajara opening ceremonies to kick off the games which run until October 30.