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US finishes 1-2 in men's BMX at Pan American Games

Gold medal winner Connor Fields, of the United States, center, stands with silver medal winner and his teammate Nicholas Long, left, and bronze medal winner Andres Jimenez of Colombia, right, for the men's BMX cycling event at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. Gold medal winner Connor Fields, of the United States, center, stands with silver medal winner and his teammate Nicholas Long, left, and bronze medal winner Andres Jimenez of Colombia, right, for the men's BMX cycling event at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
By Chris Lehourites
AP Sports Writer / October 21, 2011

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico—First came the crash. Then came the blood. And then, finally, there was the gold.

Connor Fields went through it all Friday at the Pan American Games, eventually winning the men's title in BMX cycling and pushing the United States into triple digits in the medals table.

"In the second heat I had a mechanical malfunction, my chain snapped," the 19-year-old American said. "It sent me right over the handlebars. I was all cut up and bruised."

Despite the miscue, Fields got back on his bike to finish the lap. By the time the final came around a short time later, the No. 1-ranked rider in the world was the favorite again.

"I worked my way back," he said of the third heat. "I was in Lane 1, which is the best lane."

Fields' gold, combined with the silver won by Arielle Martin-Verhaaren in the women's race, gave the United States its 100th medal early on Day 7 of the Pan American Games. Nicholas Long took silver behind Fields.

Overall, the Americans lead the games with 41 gold and 116 in total -- with two more tennis events still to go Friday. Brazil is still hanging on to second place with 17 gold and 49 overall, but Canada is closing in with 14 gold and 43 overall.

The U.S. women won two golds in swimming, while Brazil claimed the two men's races.

Also, Irina Falconi added another American gold in women's tennis, while Jason Parker won the men's 50-meter rifle three-position and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kim Rhode won the women's skeet. The U.S. men also took gold in the archery team competition.

Fields is from Las Vegas and only graduated from high school this year. When he's not on his bike, he said he likes hang out with his buddies and go to movies.

Pretty normal for any teenager. But he's also trying to earn a spot at next year's London Olympics.

"I'm going to give everything I have for London," said Fields, who hopes to earn enough points to qualify directly rather than go through various other ways to get his chance at an Olympic medal.

And after a weekend to savor his victory, Fields will be heading to Australia for a monthlong training camp with his coach. His next race is scheduled for late November in Oklahoma.

Like at every other race, he'll be pedaling in pain because of his knee.

"It will never be 100 percent because of the damage I've done to it," Fields said of his knee, which he had surgery on in March. "But it gets the job done. That's all I need it to do."

Lara Jackson won the women's 50-meter freestyle and the 400 medley relay team then claimed gold.

"I didn't really know what to expect in the altitude and not having a full season," Jackson said. "I couldn't be happier."

Brazilian swimmer Thiago Pereira completed his swimming program with two more gold medals, matching the six he won four years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

Pereira won the 200 backstroke and then earned a second gold after Brazil won the men's 400 medley relay. He didn't swim in the final, but he competed in the heats.

"I knew it was going to be a long week, competing in eight races and in the altitude. I was surprised with myself in this last day," said Pereira, who also won a silver and bronze. "I kept trying to be intelligent, saving myself at times and giving everything I had when needed."

Four years ago in Rio, Pereira broke Mark Spitz's record of most golds in one games.

In women's tennis, American citizens claimed all three medals. Falconi beat Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-3, 6-2 in the final, while American teammate Christina McHale defeated Florencia Molinero of Argentina 6-1, 6-1 for bronze.

"There is no better feeling than winning a gold medal for the United States," said Falconi, who was born in Ecuador but grew up in the United States. "I cannot describe how I feel."

Falconi and McHale can add another gold in women's doubles. They will face Molinero and Maria Irigoyen in the final later Friday.

Parker led a 1-2 U.S. finish in shooting, taking gold ahead of teammate Matthew Wallace. A short time earlier, Rhode set a Pan American Games record in winning the skeet.

Rhode is one of the most accomplished competitors at the games, and her mark of 98 points was only one shy of the world record.

The United States has won eight gold medals in shooting and 15 overall with three events still to come on Saturday.

In team sports, the U.S. softball and baseball teams are both undefeated. The women improved their record to 7-0 by beating Argentina 8-0, while the men routed Panama 11-0 to stretch their record to 2-0.

The women's basketball team didn't fare so well, however. Playing their first game in the defense of their title, the Americans lost to Argentina 58-55.

High school senior Breanna Stewart led the Americans with 18 points and 21 rebounds -- which was an American record for the games. Valencia McFarland had seven steals which also set a U.S. record.

The U.S. team jumped out to a 19-5 lead in the first quarter, but was then outscored 37-18 in the next two periods, leaving the Americans trailing 42-37 heading into the fourth.

"I think we started out really strong, and then we let their pressure get the best of us," said Katelan Redmon, who scored 16 points for the Americans. "We turned the ball over, we weren't playing our game and we just kind of gave it away to them in the second quarter."

The Americans will next face Puerto Rico on Saturday and then Mexico on Sunday.