efe-epaBy Fernando Gimeno Lima

The 2019 Pan American Games in Lima successfully wrapped up on Sunday after 19 days of uninterrupted international athletic competition, the largest event of its kind in Latin America although its viability had been uncertain just two years ago.

These were the largest Pan Am Games in history, featuring 61 disciplines and 39 sports and attracting almost 7,000 athletes from 41 countries, who earned more than 1,300 medals in the many and varied events.

The first Pan Am Games to be staged in Peru got the local public quite interested - for the first time - in sports that, to date, had been virtually unknown among Peruvians, who almost exclusively watch men's soccer and, to a lesser extent, women's volleyball.

However, whether out of curiosity or after some kind of sports revelation, people turned out in massive numbers, filling the stadiums to witness softball, mountain and track cycling, wrestling, squash, handball, rugby, badminton and many other competitions.

Among the sports rediscovered by the local populace was "paleta fronton," a Peruvian sport that was born in Lima in 1945, although it has its roots in the "pelota vasca" brought by the Spanish conquerors and in the domestic "pelota mano," called "handball" at that time due to English influence.

Peru won two of its 11 gold medals at this year's games in paleta fronton.

And local residents also turned out in relatively "huge" numbers for basketball, a sport that is quite marginal in Peru, filling the Eduardo Dibos arena in Lima with no less than 4,000 spectators at every game there despite fact that the Peruvian squad had been excluded from competition because its basketball federation has been suspended.

Swimming events also drew huge crowds, with 7,000 people cramming into the Villa Deportiva Nacional stadium and almost 4,000 jamming the aquatic center for the various events, many of them showing up to see some of the international star athletes who participated.

In the track and field events, world and Olympic champions like Colombian jumper Caterine Ibarguen and Venezuela's Yulimar Rojas, as well as Jamaican sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson were big crowd drawers.

Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz and shotputter Darlan Romani were also big with the crowd.

The big winner in the swimming competitions was Argentina's Delfina Pignatiello, who took home three golds.

The final medal count brought no surprises, with the United States winning the largest number - almost 300, of which at least 115 were golds - followed by Brazil, Canada and Mexico, the countries in the Western Hemisphere that invest the most in their athletes.

Argentina was the big winner in team sports, capturing golds in their men's soccer, basketball, handball, rugby, softball, hockey and volleyball events, and in their women's hockey competition.

Starting on Monday, Peru will begin the second great challenge of these Pan Am Games: trying to diversify its national sports focus and get greater use out of the facilities built for this year's sports events.