Pereira's sixth gold medal breaks Spitz's Pan Ams record

Updated: July 21, 2007, 4:46 PM ET
Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Not even the great Mark Spitz was as dominant at the Pan American Games as Brazilian sensation Thiago Pereira.

Thiago Pereira
Julie Jacobson/AP PhotoThiago Pereira broke Mark Spitz's 40-year-old Pan Ams record when he won the 200-meter backstroke, picking up his sixth gold medal of the Games.

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 complex.

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 yet."

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 the games.

"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 games.

"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, Kaio Marcio.

"The Pan American Games are great experience. Doing so well here can definitely help Thiago as a platform to Beijing."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press