RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Not even the great Mark Spitz was
as dominant at the Pan American Games as Brazilian sensation Thiago
Pereira broke the 40-year-old record of the American star with
six swimming gold medals in one Pan Ams.
On Saturday, Pareira won the men's 200-meter breaststroke to
earn his sixth gold. He finished the race in 2 minutes, 13.51
seconds, beating teammate Henrique Barbosa (2:13.83) and Scott
Spann (2.13.98) of Austin, Texas at the packed Maria Lank aquatic
Spitz won five golds at the 1967 Pan Ams in Winnipeg. He was 17
at the time; Pereira is 21.
"Swimming is very different at the Pan Ams," Pereira said,
referring to the pressure of being at home. "I have to do my best,
and I did my best.
"It was great to break Spitz's record, but it's not over for me
Spitz still holds the record of seven Olympic golds won at the
1972 Munich Games.
On Friday, Pereira won the 200 medley and took gold in the 400
freestyle relay even though he didn't swim in the final. By
swimming a leg in the qualifying race, he was entitled to a gold
medal when the Brazilian team won the final.
Earlier in the Pan Ams, he won the 200 backstroke, the 400
individual medley and the 800 freestyle relay. He has set four Pan
Am Games records in the pool here.
In 1967, Spitz won the 100 and 200 butterfly and three relays:
the 400 free, 400 medley and 800 free.
Pereira, ranked fourth in the world in the 200 medley, has a
chance to win two more medals in Rio. He won a silver and a bronze
at the 2003 Pan Ams in Santo Domingo.
If he wins the other two gold medals, he will tie swimmer
Gustavo Borges, one of his role models, and table tennis player
Hugo Hoyama as the Brazilians with the most golds in the history of
"I won't say that it's mission accomplished until after I'm
done with Sunday's final," Pereira said. "I'm beginning to feel
tired from all the swimming this week, but I need to keep my focus.
"Swimming has changed so much since 1995, when Gustavo had all
those medals," he said.
A teammate believes Pereira will change the sport even more -- at
least in his country.
"This kid is dominating right now," Scherer said. "Swimming
will grow a lot in Brazil just because of what he is doing here."
Pereira certainly has impressed the American competitors at the
"Thiago is a great competitor. I admire the fact that he has
won so many events. I had one race and that was hard enough. It's
mentally and physically draining," said Eddie Erazo of San Diego,
silver medalist Saturday in the 200 butterfly to another Brazilian,
"The Pan American Games are great experience. Doing so well
here can definitely help Thiago as a platform to Beijing."