First week of Pan Am Games rousing success for Canada

TORONTO (AP) The first week of the Pan Am Games has been a rousing success for host Canada.

Canada, expected to finish second in the medals table, remains in a fierce fight at the top the standings with the United States.

The Americans have won twice as many medals as anyone else in the 64 years of western hemisphere's ''mini-Olympics,'' but this time Canada is making it tough on its neighbors.

''Medal-loaded hosts halfway home,'' read the headline in Saturday's Toronto Star.

Track and field starts next week, a sport in which the Americans could pile up some medals. That was also supposed to happen in swimming, which ended Saturday, but Canada has held its own there.

Boxing also starts next week, and Cuba and the Americans could take medals from the Canadians in that sport, as well.

To be fair, Canada is fielding its ''A team'' at the games, while the United States has brought a squad that delegation chief Alan Ashely described as a ''B and C team,'' along with a few Olympic and world champions.

This does not diminish the success of Canada, whose realistic goal was to finish behind the Americans, but ahead of Brazil and Cuba. Its 719-member delegation is twice as large as the team that competed at the Pan Am Games four years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico, and it has delivered the goods.

Canada's rising star in the first week was 19-year-old gymnast Ellie Black, who has won three golds - and five overall - and shown that Canada can excel at more than just at ice hockey.

The United States has the second largest team - 100 fewer than Canada - followed by Brazil with 590 athletes and Mexico with 500.

Canada is paying for its success at the 41-nation games, which end July 26. It has spent about $2.5 billion Canadian dollars ($2 billion) organizing the event, which is more than 10 times what Winnipeg spent for the last time Canada hosted the Pan Am Games in 1999.

Ticket sales, which were reported Saturday to have reached 1 million of 1.4 million available, will generate about $40 million. The rest of the budget comes from the federal, provincial and local governments.

Canada's success has raised expectations for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where the competition will be much tougher.

IOC President Thomas Bach has further stirred Olympic fever, too. Visiting 10 days ago, he suggested Canada's largest city as a possible Olympic host.

''I think Toronto could be a good candidate (for the 2024 games), but we still have to see now the Pan Am Games, how it's working here,'' Bach said. ''The Pan Am Games can give a boost to a (Olympic) candidate.''

Toronto would have to move quickly, with five cities are already in the mix: Paris; Rome; Boston; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary.

The Pan Am Games offer some events you won't see in the Olympics, and several are up in the second week: women's baseball, 10-pin bowling and racquetball.

Five teams are entered in women's baseball: Venezuela, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the United States.

Organizers also confirmed that four athletes tested positive for banned substances in the first week and have been disqualified: weightlifter Cinthya Domingues of Mexico and baseball players Nelson Gomez of Puerto Rico, Javier Ortiz of Colombia, and Mario Mercedes Castillo of the Dominican Republic.

The Peruvian delegation also said that swimmer Mauricio Fiol, the silver medalist in the 200-meter butterfly, had tested positive for steroids and has been suspended from the team.

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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