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The U.S. men’s team will bring home bronze medals for the second consecutive Pan American Games, and as just the second men’s team to earn medals since squash’s inclusion to the Pan American Games in 1995.
Chris Gordon, Chris Hanson, and Todd Harrity’s run in Toronto ended in grueling fashion against defending gold medalists, Mexico’s Arturo Salazar, Cesar Salazar and Eric Galvez, in the form of two marathon five-game losses.
No. 3’s Chris Hanson and Arturo Salazar opened proceedings at the Direct Energy Center. After the first two games split, Hanson went ahead 2-1 after a tight 12-10 third game. The twenty-seven-year-old Mexican then recovered to win the fourth and fifth 11-3, 11-5 giving Mexico a 1-0 lead.
Salazar’s twin brother, Cesar, then stepped up to take on U.S. No. 1 Chris Gordon. After losing the first game, Gordon pulled back the second and third game to gain a 2-1 advantage. Once again, a Salazar dug deep to comeback and win the match in five 11-5, 11-8.
Their medals mark Harrity’s first Pan American Games medal, Hanson’s second along with his 2015 doubles bronze, and Gordon’s fourth, adding to his 2015 doubles bronze with Hanson, and 2011 team bronze and doubles silver medals.
2015 is now the first iteration of the Pan American Games in which each Team USA member will bring home a medal.
Rich Wade, Team Manager and Director of National Teams and Certifications, reports on day five of match play from Toronto:
Day 6 arrived with much at stake with the knockout stages of the Team event upon us and more medals to win. Team USA Men went through their usual pre-match routine for a 10am match against Colombia, only to find out on arrival to the venue that Colombia had two members of their team suffering from injuries after a torturous week and were going to default handing Team USA a guaranteed Bronze medal and a semifinal match against our neighbors from the south, Mexico.
Having suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Mexico in last year’s Pan American Festival, our Men were motivated to go one better and lead us into the Gold medal match. Chris Hanson, our No. 3, was the first match on against Arturo Salazar world No. 108. With neither player willing to give an inch knowing exactly what was at stake, it was Hanson that drew first blood 11-7. Sadly for Hanson, the ball became extremely spongy and Salazar was able to take control of the second game with some lethal straight kills. Hanson dug deep in the third and was rewarded with a 12-10 win before Arturo again clawed it back and took the game to a fifth with an 11-3 win.
The deciding game was one game to many for Hanson after a tough, physical week of squash. Arturo squeezed a ton of pressure out of Hanson and although Chris used everything he had in the tank, we were chasing the final game from the beginning and lost it 11-5. Next up, and to keep Team USA in the match, Chris Gordon to player the second Salazar brother, Caesar.
With the pressure on, Gordon started well and settled any nerves he might have had. Establishing an early lead however wasn’t enough on this occasion as Caesar straightened the ball up and forced some errors to seal the first 11-7. Not to be defeatist, Gordon came back with the desired response after a team talk with Gilly Lane and took the next two games to go 2-1 up, 11-5, 11-9.
We could sense that this might be taking the overall match into a deciding match and Todd Harrity and Eric Galvez increased the intensity of their warm ups. With the crowd firmly behind Gordo he ran off to a 5-2 lead, only to be pegged back with some crafty shots and extremely long rallies. Salazar took the fourth game 11-5 and was able to close out the match 11-8 in the fifth after some mammoth rallies, epic dives and rolling nicks. Once again, pipped at the very last and couldn’t quite get it over the line against Mexico, but our Men take Bronze meaning every single player has medaled in this event.
The Men secure Bronze and will not play tomorrow and the Women will compete against Canada in a 5.30pm Final! Support and follow our team on twitter @TeamUSASquash.