Cuba won the first major team title of the 15th Pan American Games On Thursday as its women's volleyball team beat the host Brazil 3-2 in a thrilling final.
The Cuban team, which suffered from a slow start, lost the first set 25-27 but soon levelled the score 1-1 after taking the second set 25-22.
Due to poor receiving and serving, the Cuban team again found them 2-1 behind. Things didn't became any better early in the fourth set and it seemed the host team would wrap up the game 3-1.
But the Cubans refused to give up the title and they fought desperately to save at least 10 match points to force the match into the fifth set.
The Cuban team started the fifth set strongly, leading 2-0. But then they again lost their rhythm and conceded five points in a row to fall 2-5 behind.
The host team, encouraged by fans, played a high-spirit game and led all the way to 14-12. At this crucial point, the Cuban showed why they are the world champions by saving three more match points and went on to win the match 17-15.
"We attacked really strong. We are Cubans, we are always ready for a fight." said Cuban player Liana Mesa.
"We made some silly mistakes. Cuba is a strong team. Many times we were behind them and couldn't get it right. With a crowded arena, our sadness is much bigger." said Brazilian player Marianne Steinbrecher.
Thursday's swimming pool was dominated by the United States as the Americans won three out of four gold medals. But it was Brazilian Thiago Pereira who was the hero.
The Brazilian star swimmer won the men's 200m backstroke title, his third gold medal in as many events at the current Pan Am Games.
Pereira was timed at one minute 58.42 seconds for the title, beating Scott Clary of the United States to the second place at 1: 59.24. Lacas Salatta of Brazil touched home third at 1:59.51.
"I've just left the podium and I'm already thinking about the other events. I'm very focused and doing my best in each event. So far, I've taken part in three events, won three gold medals and I've beaten three records. I'm very happy with the results."
Pereira will compete in five more events and it seems quite possible for him to win more than five gold medals at one Pan American Games, a record set by American Mark Spitz 40 years ago.
The other three events of the day were all won by Americans. Michelle McKeehan won the women's 100m breaststroke at 1:08.49, Julia Smit took the gold of women's 100m backstroke at 1:02.01 and then helped the American quartet to win the women's 4X100 freestyle relay at 3:41.97.
"I'm very happy with the gold medal. In the beginning, we had some problems, but we went on and I am very proud of our team," said Julia Smit.
"When I hear the crowd screaming up there, I do as a friend of mine: I pretend they are cheering for me."
Michelle McKeehan said she hopes to take part in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
"We'll see what happens in Beijing. We can't make a forecast yet, but I expect to achieve the Olympic index and to be part of the American team next year."
The rowing competitions ended on Thursday and Cuba is the biggest winners with 5 gold medals.
Canada ended with 3 golds, followed by the United States and Argentina with two titles each.
Cuba and Colombia share the top place of the medal table of track cycling tournament which ended on Thursday.
In the ten events, Cuba won three titles, one silver and 2 bronze meals. Colombia has three gold, 4 silver and one bronze medal to its credit.
The judo tournament produced its first two gold medals on Thursday with Cuban Oscar Brayson beat Joao Schlittler for the men's over 100kg title and Vanessa Zambotti of Mexico won the women's over 78kg class.
The technical committee of Pan Am Games baseball tournament decided to award both Mexico and Nicaragua with bronze medals due to the fact that the event for the third place scheduled for Thursday, will not be able to be held.
The baseball final, between Cuba and the United States, is also postponed from Thursday to Friday due to the rain in Rio de Janeiro.