Boulder athletes compete in the 1991 Pan Am Games

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Photo courtesy of Don Janicki

The Pan Am Games were held in Havana, Cuba in 1991. 4,519 athletes from 39 countries were represented that year including a few from Boulder who represented the US.

Cuba has seldom had the opportunity to receive so many foreigners, especially such a large number from the United States. For that reason, the 1991 games have become an important source of national pride, a chance to show off progress despite the onerous embargo from the north.

“We have a sacred commitment to the Pan American Games, and we will honor it,” Castro told a group of Western journalists last week. “So the Pan American Games have been given a high priority, and they will continue to enjoy a high priority.” the New York Times reported.

Shown in the picture is Mark Curp, James Harold Cooper, Danny Reese and Pat Manson.

For pole vaulter Pat Manson, it was the first of three Pan Am Games that went well. His accomplishments included 3 Golds and a Pan Am Games record of 5.75m that stood for 16 years.

“Resources were slim there, but Cuba wanted to impress so they did their best to build a nice athletes village. But there was no air conditioning and it was HOT that is why we are all shirtless in the pictures.” said Manson

“Also, instead of hot water heaters, they had shower heads with heaters in them. However, there were wires going into the shower head…with copper showing!  Nobody got electrocuted that I heard of. Most of them shorted out so it was ice cold showers every time, which after the initial stunning cold was not too bad in the heat. In the end, it was a great experience, and a great Pan Am Games. ”

Manson added, “I continue to see many of the athletes from that trip as we overlap in life. It was a good team on that trip.”

They did their best with the food, but it was rough, and a large number of people had stomach issues including Dan Reese who was a standout for the CU Buffs who went to Cuba to run the Steeplechase. He ran 5th that year despite having stomach issues and losing 7 pounds before the race.

“I lost a ton of weight when I was there, a ton is relative. I probably went from 122-115 at race time. The food was horrible and I had no energy when race time came along. Still good memories though and a great trip,” stated Reese.

Don Janicki who is currently the Elite Coordinator for the Bolder Boulder also had a bad race.

“Unfortunately the Pan Am Games were not good to me. First of only two marathons I dropped out of. After that marathon, I had acchilles tendon surgery. I guess the most memorable thoughts I have is a Cuban guy won the marathon and Mark Curp and I sort of made international news. Someone told me that Fidel Castro made a comment about the two pansy American marathoners dropping out and the Cuban won. Communism works.”

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