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International Test

Pan Am, Parapan Am Games offer great measuring stick for world’s best athletes

This summer’s Pan American Games will be the 17th staging of the event, while the Parapan Am Games will take place for the fifth time.

This summer’s Pan American Games will be the 17th staging of the event, while the Parapan Am Games will take place for the fifth time.

Hundreds of elite athletes live and train year-round at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and several of them will head to Toronto this summer to put their talents to the test on a grand stage.

For that is when the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games take place North of the border as hundreds of the world’s best athletes will come together to battle for medals and international glory. The Pan Am Games are slated for July 10-26, and the Parapan Am Games follow Aug. 7-15.

From archery, beach volleyball, basketball, boxing, golf and judo, to handball, rowing, softball and weightlifting, the Pan Am Games has it all for fans and athletes alike. The Parapan Ams will feature everything from boccia, football, goalball and powerlifting to table tennis, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, so there will be no shortage of events for athletes from across the globe.

Most sports and their national governing bodies had not yet named their specific team members for this summer’s competition by press time, but Parapan Am Games veteran Tharon Drake was among those who had the event on his radar. Drake, 22, competed in the 2011 Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, winning a bronze in swimming en route to being named an alternate for the London 2012 Paralympic Summer Games.

He relished the chance to compete in the Parapan Ams and used the experience as a gauge for where his skills place him among the worldwide rankings in his chosen sport.

“It was just a really, really big learning experience,” said Drake, who lost his eyesight as the result of routine vaccinations at age 14. “I went in thinking I was going to win all of these gold medals and came out with just a bronze, and I used it as momentum toward the Games in London. The Pan American Games is something huge that any athlete who gets the opportunity to compete at them will never forget.

“It really shows where you are against other people in your hemisphere, and in my case, where I wasn’t and where I wanted to be. I’ll never forget the Guadalajara Games.”

A national team member ranked second in the 100 breaststroke, Drake has thoroughly enjoyed his time as an OTC resident. He trains with coach David Denniston and will compete everywhere from Cincinnati to Germany before the Parapan Ams roll around.

The training center has provided a haven of sorts for him and other athletes to hone their skills and focus on their career goals.

“We have some of the best facilities in the world,” Drake said. “Then, you have the camaraderie here with all of the athletes. It’s a great community and really makes the whole thing fun.

“It’s been an amazing experience living here.”