The Pan American Games — the world’s third largest international multi-sport event — kick off this weekend with nearly 7,000 athletes from 41 countries competing in 36 sports.
Among Team USA’s 623-member contingent traveling to Canada are seven competitors from the Kansas City area.
▪ Cam F. Awesome: The superheavyweight boxer from KC will be looking for gold as part of a strong American team that has Cuba as a traditional rival. A four-time U.S. and three-time Golden Gloves champion who missed the 2012 London Olympics after being suspended for not completing his whereabouts form for drug testing, Awesome is poised to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the Pan Am Games serving as a key stepping stone toward a potential Olympic medal. Awesome’s Pan Am campaign begins July 19. The semifinals are July 23, with the medal bouts on July 25.
▪ Buddy Baumann: The native of Rogersville and Missouri State alumni is a pitcher on the Royals’ Class AAA squad in Omaha. Last month, he gained notoriety for a wacky hair cut he had to endure after losing a bet when teammate Brett Eibner’s alma mater Arkansas defeated the Bears. Team USA’s first game is Saturday against Puerto Rico, followed by match-ups Sunday (Cuba), Monday (Colombia),Wednesday (Nicaragua) and Thursday (Dominican Republic). The round robin concludes with Team USA looking for revenge against the Canadians, who defeated the U.S. in the 2011 gold-medal game in Mexico. The semifinals are July 18, with the medal games the next day.
▪ Bobby Bollier: With many of the top swimmers taking a pass on the Pan Ams ahead of the World Championships in Russia later this month, a spot opened up for Mission Hill’s Bobby Bollier. The Pembroke Hill graduate who studied mechanical engineering at Stanford will swim in the 200-meter butterfly on Tuesday. He won a silver medal in that discipline at the 2011 World University games.
▪ Ryleigh Buck: Women’s baseball debuts at the Pan Am Games, with the U.S. a big favorite to take the inaugural title. Ryleigh Buck, who will be a senior this fall at Wellington High School, will be an infielder and pitcher for the team. On July 20, Team USA will face Venezuela, followed by round-robin games against Cuba (July 22), Puerto Rico (July 23), and Canada (July 24). The bronze-medal game is July 25, with gold determined on July 26.
▪ Maddie Desch: A gymnast who attends St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Desch has committed to the University of Alabama when she graduates in 2016. She won gold as an alternate on the U.S. team at last year’s world championship in China. She placed fifth individually in the all-around competition at last year’s Pan American championships. Her Games begin on Sunday, with the all-around medals handed out on Monday, while apparatus medals will be won on Tuesday and Wednesday.
▪ Zach Garrett: The 20-year-old archer from Wellington has his sights set on the 2016 Olympic team, having moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs shortly after he graduated from Wellington-Napoleon High School. He is hoping to win a medal at the Pan Ams, with his competition running from Tuesday until next Saturday, when the medals will be awarded.
▪ Chris Miljavac: The softball infielder from St. Joseph is a veteran of the U.S. national team. At the Pan Am Games qualifier last year, he hit .211 with one RBI, while scoring two runs. The American men play their opening game on Sunday against the Dominican Republic, followed by games on consecutive days versus Canada, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. The semifinals are Friday, with the medals handed out the next day.
The Pan Am Games, being held in the greater Toronto area, serve as an Olympic qualifier in 10 sports, such as field hockey and water polo. In other sports that have world championships coming soon, like swimming and track and field, younger athletes looking for international experience are being sent while the top stars rest. There are also a number of sports such as roller skating and water skiing that are not part of the Olympics. The U.S. will participate in all Pan Am sports except soccer and handball.