With the Pan Am Games happening at home in 2015, you probably won’t have to go far to get news on what’s going on — including whether or not Canada is meeting its ambitious medal goals. But there’s something to be said for getting an inside look at these major events, and social media makes that increasingly possible.
The Sochi Olympics really highlighted the power of platforms like Instagram, both in celebration of athletes’ victories and mocking — or complaining about — the less-than-stellar conditions in the Athletes’ Village. We can only expect, a year later, that athletes will be using the #TO2015 hashtag to share photos from the Pan Am Games, both during their events and in instances fans and spectators might not otherwise see.
These 17 athletes, from Canada and abroad, are ones to watch at the Pan Am Games, because of their athletic performances, their personal stories, or both. And with their regular use of Twitter and Instagram, watching them will be just that much easier.
1. Melissa Humana-Pardes: This Canadian beach volleyball player hits the sand with Taylor Pischke in Toronto, and both women have an impressive pedigree in the sport: Humana-Pardes’ father is Hernan Humana, a former member of Chile’s national team, and Pischke’s is Garth Pischke, who went to the Olympics twice for indoor volleyball.
2. Natalie Coughlin: This decorated U.S. swimmer is one of six cover models for the just-released ESPN Body issue, proving that she’s still in fighting shape ahead of these Games.
3. Kadeisha Buchanan: Most of Canada’s World Cup team won’t be at the Pan Am Games after an intense tournament, but Kadeisha Buchanan is one of three making an appearance after helping the home squad get to the quarterfinals.
4. Samuel Mikulak: The reigning two-time American all-around gymnastics champion is a medal favourite for the men’s squad, and his performance in Toronto could herald him as one to watch for Rio 2016.
5. Andre De Grasse: De Grasse only began sprinting three years ago, but he just had a name-making performance at the Pac-12 championships in May. He ran 100 metres in less than 10 seconds — 9.97 seconds, to be exact—a first for a Canadian in 15 years. Then he beat that in early June with 9.75 seconds for 100 metres and 19.58 for 200 metres. Let’s see what he can do in Toronto.
6. Paula Findlay: Canadian Findlay’s 2012 Olympics ended in disappointment when a hip injury had her trailing at the end during an event in which she was favoured to medal. But the triathlete is on the mend now and recently finished eighth in a London triathlon and is ready to move forward in Toronto.
7. Mariana Pajon: Called Queen of BMX by her fans, this Colombian cyclist won a gold in London in 2012 and is the current women’s world champion in the sport. She’ll be defending another gold, in BMX from the 2011 Pan Ams, in Toronto.
8. Patricia Bezzoubenko: Fresh off a six-medal performance — including five golds — at the Commonwealth Games, this 17-year-old Canadian rhythmic gymnast has recently been posting pics of some relaxing-looking vacations. Hopefully it’s left her ready to win more hardware at the Pan Am Games.
9. Paola Longoria: Mexico’s Longoria is the reigning women’s champ in both singles and doubles racquetball — the first player to hold both titles at the same time. Her influence goes beyond the court, with Forbes naming her one of Mexico’s 50 most influential women in 2013.
10. Rosie MacLennan: As Canada’s only gold medalist at the London 2012 Olympics, MacLennan comes into the Pan Am Games at home with high expectations — fitting for a trampolinist. As the reigning world champ in the sport, those expectations seem likely to be met.
11. Marquise Goodwin: Goodwin is better known as a wide receiver for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, but he’ll be competing in a very different sport in Toronto: long jump. He’s no newbie, though, having competed in track and field in college and representing the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics.
12. Amanda Bingson: Another of ESPN’s Body Issue cover stars, American Bingson has been hailed as a role model for body positivity. She’s also a role model in her sport, the hammer throw, as an American record holder and a medal hopeful at Rio in 2016.
#WaybackWednesday In 2013, I set a new American Record in the Women's Hammer Throw at the #USATF National Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Minutes later I broke the record again and won my first U.S. Championship title throwing 75.73m/248-5! #ThrowLikeaGirl #FIELDandTrack #RecordsAreMadetobeBroken #PersonalRecord #PersonalBest #unlv
13. Mark Oldershaw: A competitor in sprint canoe, Oldershaw is actually a third-generation Canadian Olympic canoer and the fifth member of his family to compete at the Games — but the first to win a medal, a bronze in London. As the flagbearer for Canada for Toronto 2015, we should see a lot of him over the next few weeks.
14. Paige Selenski: Yet another great athlete featured in the Body Issue, Selenski is a member of the American field hockey team — though she got her start with athletics through high school track. The U.S. team came in fourth at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup, so she’s got a medal shot in Toronto.
15. Justyn Warner: Warner shared in what might have been Canada’s greatest heartbreak at the London Olympics: his four-man squad won a surprise bronze in the 4x100m relay event, only to be disqualified nearly immediately afterward because a teammate stepped out of his lane. Here’s hoping he can have a happier story coming out of the Pan Am Games three years later.
16. Anthony Bennett: With the Olympic trials coming so close to the Toronto Games, many of Canada’s growing roster of top basketball stars won’t be at the Pan Ams. But that’s not the case for Bennett, the NBA’s first overall draft pick in 2013 and a member of our home team for 2015.
17. Jennifer Abel: This Canuck diver took home a bronze in London and is the reigning Commonwealth Games champion for both 1m springboard and 3m syncro springboard (with Emilie Heymans). That makes her one of Canada’s medal favourites in Toronto.
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