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Brazil’s Pereira looking to break records at PanAm Games

July 10, 2015

SAO PAULO (AP) — One of Brazil’s biggest ever delegations at the Pan American Games will be highlighted by swimmer Thiago Pereira, who has a chance to become the games’ greatest medalist of all time.

Pereira, nicknamed “Mister Pan,” has 18 medals going into his fourth Pan American Games, four shy of the 22 won by former Cuban gymnast Erick Lopez. Pereira is on pace to break the record, considering he won eight medals in each of the last two PanAm Games.

Pereira is not Brazil’s top swimmer at the moment, that honor belongs to three-time Olympic medalist Cesar Cielo, who will not be competing in Toronto but instead focusing on the upcoming world championships in Russia. But when it comes to the Pan American Games, no other Brazilian is better than Pereira, the country’s record-holder gold medalist, with 12.

If he wins at least one medal in this month’s games in Toronto, Pereira will tie Brazil’s greatest medalist ever, fellow swimmer Gustavo Borges, who won 19.

Pereira, a silver-medalist in the 400 individual medley at the 2012 London Games, said breaking Lopez’s record will be difficult, but not impossible.

“I have a chance and I want to make history by becoming the greatest medalist all-time at the Pan American Games,” the 29-year-old Pereira said. “My goal in Toronto is to help Brazil on the medal table and to surpass Lopez, the current record-holder.”

The swimmer’s first Pan American Games was in 2003 in Santo Domingo, when he won a bronze and a silver. In 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Pereira won six gold medals, one silver and one bronze. He also won six gold, one silver and one bronze in 2011 in Guadalajara.

With nearly 600 athletes in Toronto, Brazil hopes to finish in the top three in medals, just like it did in Guadalajara four years ago. Brazilians won 141 medals in the games in Mexico (48 gold, 35 silver and 58 bronze). Brazil’s best showing so far came at home in 2007, when it finished third with 157 medals (52 gold, 40 silver and 65 bronze). The hosts had a record delegation of 660 athletes in Rio.

The Toronto Games will be extra important for the Brazilians, coming only about a year before the home Olympics in Rio.

Other top Brazilian athletes heading to Canada include sailor Robert Scheidt, one of Brazil’s greatest Olympians with five medals, world champion pole-vaulter Fabiana Murer and judo Olympic medalists Mayra Aguiar, Felipe Kitadai, Rafael Silva and Tiago Camilo. Young archer Marcus Vinicius D’Almeida, who last year finished second in the archery World Cup at age 16, will also participate.

Brazil won’t be competing in four events: baseball, women’s field hockey, racquetball and speed skating.

In addition to Cielo, other Brazilians who will not be in Toronto include show jumper Rodrigo Pessoa, marathon runner Marilson Gomes dos Santos, open water swimmer Poliana Okimoto, men’s gymnast Diego Hipolito and judo women’s fighter Sarah Menezes.

Brazil’s basketball team will be without NBA players such as Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao, Thiago Splitter and Nene. Brazil’s men’s football team is using an under-22 squad, and many of the stars in the women’s team, including five-time world player of the year Marta, are not expected to play.

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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