Ruthless Lizeth Rueda runs to Pan American Games glory in Vina del Mar
Golden day for Mexico at the 2023 Santiago Pan American Games, with Lizeth Rueda delivering a running master class to claim gold 12 years after her debut at the PanAm Games, back then as a marathon swimmer. Her teammate Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal rounded a great day for Mexico with the bronze medal, while Colombia’s Maria Carolina Velasquez Soto crossed the finish line in second place.
It was a cold morning at the El Sol beach when the 34 women lined up on the sand for the 2023 Pan American Games in Vina del Mar, wearing wetsuits, ready for the 1500m swim in one lap.
Vittoria Lopes (BRA) and Lizeth Rueda gave a statement from the first meters of the swim, getting ahead of the rest of the field by 20 meters before turning around the first buoy, and with the rest of the field deciding to take a different line to the second buoy, a little bit further away from the coast. Both of them excellent swimmers, no one was able to follow their feet.
With the swim course set in just one lap and swimming mostly parallel to the coastline, Lopes and Rueda found the perfect line and they had 22 seconds over the chasers by the time they got to the turnaround point, a distance that increased to 31 seconds by the end of the swim.
Lopes and Rueda made it together to the first transition, but the Mexican struggled to get out of her wetsuit, which costed her to loose Lopes’ wheel. The Brazilian left solo, and Rueda was left on no one’s land, and was quickly caught by Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal (MEX), Emy Legault (CAN), Djenyfer Arnold (BRA), Moira Miranda (ARG) and Luisa Baptista (BRA) almost 40 seconds behind, with another group led by Erica Ackerlund (USA) and Erica Hawley (BER) right behind them.
The hill on one end of each lap and the technical descent that followed proved to be a challenging one for the chase group, who never managed to get organized and lost time lap after lap until despite the efforts of Legault and Ackerlund, always trying to push up front and organize the chase. Meanwhile, Vittoria was pushing the pace to try to keep the gap as big as possible, knowing that some fast runners were behind her.
With only two laps to go, Dominika Jamnicky (CAN) and Maria Carolina Velasquez Soto joined the chase group and their efforts proved to be decisive, as the group went from 1minute 20 seconds down to just 36 seconds by the time they all hit T2.
Leading the swim and then doing the 40km bike solo had an impact on Vittoria Lopes, who started the run looking back, while Rueda, Velasquez Soto and Tapia Vidal started to chase her. Lopes could only hold on for the first lap, and with 5km to go she was already struggling to stay in the fourth position, with Erica Hawley and Dominica Jamnicky approaching quickly.
Tapia Vidal was the first one to be dropped by the pace of the leaders, and it was at the end of the third lap when Rueda made her move, finding an extra gear to leave behind also Velasquez Soto and run not looking back until the finish tape was on sight.
For the Mexican, the victory meant a lot, 12 years after making her debut at the PanAm Games as a marathon swimmer. “This means the world to me. I knew that I was in great form but I was not expecting this. I want to thank my team and everyone that has believed in me for so long, helping me all these years”, she said, after crossing the finish line. “The plan for me today was to follow Vittoria (Lopes) feet from the start, as we all know how great swimmer she is, and it did play out. But I struggled a lot in the first transition, lost her, and I decided to wait for the group and not waste more energies, saving some legs for the run. And it did pay off”, she explained.
Behind her, second on the day was Velasquez Soto, putting a great end to the season and getting some really valuable points for the Olympic Qualification Rankings. “I am really proud of my race today, the field today was really strong, many athletes that usually race at WTCS level. This result shows my work all this year, and puts me on a great place for qualifying for what would be my first Olympics”, explained the World Triathlon Team member.
Rounding up a great day for Mexico, Tapia Vidal grabbed the last spot on the podium. “I struggled a bit on the water, it was very cold, but we managed to stay together on the bike and make it as a group to the second transition. I know what I have to work more for next season, so I take quite a few learnings from today”, she said.
Fourth place was for a delighted Erica Hawley (BER), also a member of the World Triathlon Team, with her best result of her career so far, while the fifth place was for Jamnicky. Legault, Ackerlund, Lopes, Arnold and Diana Marcela Castillo Franco (COL) rounded up the top ten on the day.
10:43 - 31 Oct, 2023