<
>

Daryl Szarenski wins air pistol gold

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Ready. Aim. Gold!

Daryl Szarenski, a three-time Olympian and member of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program, set a pair of Pan American Games records Sunday and won the gold medal in the 10-meter air pistol.

"It's always fun to win," said Szarenski, who already holds the Pan Am record in the upcoming 50-meter pistol. "You can't beat that."

Szarenski's gold, his second overall at the Pan Am Games after first winning in 2003, started off another stellar day for the United States in Guadalajara.

Americans went 1-2 in two swimming events, and earned a silver and a bronze in two others. The equestrian team added another gold in the team dressage, and Americans picked up a pair of bronze medals in taekwondo.

"To be a part of that team and add to that effort to be winners, that's just awesome," said Szarenski, a sergeant first class on active duty in the Army who scored 583 points to set a competition record in the qualifying round.

Szarenski competed at the last three Olympics, but has never won a medal. His victory Sunday, however, earned the United States a second quota spot for the 2012 London Olympics, making the native of Saginaw, Mich., a good bet to participate in a fourth.

"I'm pretty confident to make it," said Szarenski, who will compete in the free pistol Wednesday. "It's not going to be easy and I'm going to have to shoot for it, but I think I'm on top and I got a really good chance.

"I'm not counting on it, but I think I'm going to be there."

And after moving up the final placings each time he has competed, Szarenski likes his chances for the London Games.

"I guess I'm a slow learner because every time I keep getting better and better," Szarenski said. "It'll be nice to go a fourth time and take another shot at it."

At the Pan American Games, Szarenski has fared much better. He won gold in the free pistol at the games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, eight years ago, and added a silver in the same event in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

Sandra Uptagrafft also won a medal in shooting, taking the bronze in the women's 10-meter air pistol.

"Very proud to be able to add to that total," Uptagrafft said of the rapidly rising overall medal tally for the United States.

Uptagrafft, who is a petty officer first class in the Navy reserve from Phenix City, Ala., only returned from a tour in Afghanistan in March. She was stationed at Kandahar Air Field, where she said she worked with the Seabees in IT warfare.

And she still has a chance for gold in Guadalajara. Uptagrafft is the two-time defending Pan Am Games champion in the 25-meter pistol event, and she'll be going for a third gold later this week.

"I'm hoping to do my best and see," said Uptagrafft, who finished behind gold medalist Dorothy Ludwig of Canada and second-place Maribel Pineda of Venezuela on Sunday.

In the swimming pool, Catherine Breed and Chelsea Nauta finished 1-2 in the women's 200 freestyle, and Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton claimed gold and silver in the women's 100 backstroke.

"This is one of my biggest accomplishments so far in swimming," Breed said. "Definitely this swim will help me going forward into next year's trials to try to represent the U.S. in London."

Pelton had set a Pan American Games record in the heats, but Bootsma broke that in the final, winning in 2:00.08.

Brazil ended up with more gold in the pool, however. Olympic 50 freestyle champion Cesar Cielo won the 100 free and then helped his teammates win the 400 relay. Brazil added a third gold when Felipe Frana led a 1-2 finish ahead of teammate Felipe Lima. Marcus Titus of the United States took bronze.

"It's good to swim with confidence again," Cielo said. "This result allows me to start thinking bigger, to start thinking about London."

The American team dressage quartet of Cesar Parra, Steffen Peters, Heather Blitz and Marisa Festerling earned gold before Terrence Jennings and Nicole Palma each won bronze in taekwondo. Jennings earned his medal in the under-68-kilogram category, while Palma competed in the women's under-57.