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Canadian Eventing Team in Silver Medal Position at Pan American Games
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photo: Cealy Tetley
Calgary's Sandra Donnelly riding Buenos Aires is currently the top-placed Canadian
The Canadian Eventing Team is in second position following the first of three phases of competition, dressage, held Friday, July 20, at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The United States, with a team comprised of veteran Olympians, is in first place with a combined score of 143.40 penalty points. Canada currently has a score of 159.90 while the host country of Brazil is third with 173.20. Argentina is in fourth place and Chile rounds out the five teams competing. Chile, already disadvantaged with three team members instead of the usual four, suffered a blow when Ricardo Stangher retired during the dressage phase, resulting in a penalty of 1,000 points. Eventing works on a penalty point system where the team with the lowest number of points is the winner.

Individually, Canada's best result in the dressage came from Sandra Donnelly, 37, of Calgary, AB, on her 10-year old Canadian Warmblood gelding, Buenos Aires. She earned a score of 51.70 penalty points from the panel of international judges to place seventh among the 27-horse starting field.

"Today was a personal best score for us," said Donnelly of her dressage performance. "My horse always does his best, and tries very hard."

Donnelly bred Buenos Aires and has trained him his whole career, a fact that she feels will work to her advantage in the competition.

"At the end of the day it comes down to knowing your horse, especially on cross country," she noted.

Immediately behind Donnelly in eighth place is Canada's anchor rider, Toronto native Michael Winter. His score of 51.90 penalty points on the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Kingpin, owned by the Kingpin Syndicate, was the result of a test that improved from the trot work to the canter work.

"I didn't get my head around things until the walk," said the 32-year-old after he competed. "I was more proactive in the canter and I rode every step."

Also riding as a member of the Canadian Team, Kyle Carter, 38, of Calgary, AB, and Madison are tied for 11th position with Gina Miles of the United States with a score of 56.30. Canada's fourth Team member, who also happens to be the youngest, is 18-year-old Waylon Roberts of Port Perry, ON. Riding the Canadian-bred Paleface, Roberts sits in 21st position with a score of 62.90. As only the best three scores are used to calculate the team placings, Roberts' score was dropped from the final team tally.

Representing Canada as an individual, Jessica Phoenix, 23,of Uxbridge, ON, made her international championship debut with an impressive tenth place finish with a score of 54.80 penalty points riding her 10-year-old thoroughbred gelding, Exploring.

The current individual leaders after dressage are all from the United States. Mara Dean, competing as an individual on Nicki Henley, is in first place with 40.20 penalties followed by two team members, Stephen Bradley riding From with 46.50 and Karen O'Connor riding the diminutive pony, Theodore O'Connor, with 47.10.

The second phase of eventing competition, the cross-country, will begin on Saturday, July 21, at 10 a.m. The horses will negotiate a total of 27 numbered fences with 41 jumping efforts over a 5,700-meter course. Designed by Sue Benson of Great Britain, the cross-country track makes use of the countryside's rolling terrain with frequent gallops up and down hill.

"They have done a beautiful job on the footing," said Winter in reference to the cross-country track, which was only completed a few weeks ago and has never been tested. "Nobody knows how it's going to ride until the horses are out there."

Both in the team standings and individually, Canada is well positioned to challenge the United States for the top medals, which will be awarded on Sunday following the show jumping competition beginning at 2 p.m. The top two teams, excluding the already qualified United States, will be awarded berths for the 2008 Olympic Games.

2007 Pan American Games - Individual Eventing Standings Following Dressage

Rider Country Horse Score
1. Mara Dean United States Nicki Henley 40.20
2. Stephen Bradley United States From 46.50
3. Karen O'Connor United States Theodore O'Connor 47.10
4. Darren Chiacchia United States Better I Do It 49.40
5. Phillip Dutton United States Truluck 49.80
6. Samantha Albert Jamaica Before I Do It 50.20
7. Sandra Donnelly Calgary, AB Buenos Aires 51.70
8. Mike Winter Toronto, ON Kingpin 51.90
9. Carlos Paro Brazil Political Mandate 54.00
10. Jessica Pheonix Uxbridge, ON Exploring 54.80
11. (tie) Kyle Carter Calgary, AB Madison Park 56.30
11. (tie) Gina Miles United States McKinlaigh 56.30

21. Waylon Roberts Port Perry, ON Paleface 62.90

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