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Darren Chiacchia in Medal Position at Pan American Games
Buffalo, NY, USA
by Kenneth Braddick
Darren Chiacchia (USA) and Better I Do It
Defending Gold Medalist Darren Chiacchia of Buffalo, NY, is currently in third position heading into Sunday's final phase of competition in eventing at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A three-phase equestrian competition, eventing began at the Pan Am Games on Friday with dressage. Chiacchia earned a score of 49.40 penalty points from the panel of international judges to move into fourth position among a 27-horse starting field. On Saturday, athletes contested the cross-country phase of eventing with Chiacchia jumping clear around the demanding course designed by Sue Benson of Great Britain. Picking up just .80 penalty points for exceeding the 10-minute time allowed, Chiacchia moved into third place on the leader board with a two-day total of 50.20 penalty points.

"As we had predicted, the course was quite a bit of work. It wasn´t the most ominous course we have ever seen, but with the terrain and the tight turns, you had to work from start to finish," said Chiacchia of the course that measured 5.7 km in length and challenged horses with 27 numbered obstacles and a total of 41 jumping efforts. As the sixth rider to tackle the course, Chiacchia noted, "I was early in the go, so I didn't have the benefit of having much information."

His partner for all three phases of competition is Better I Do It, a 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding owned by Adrienne Iorio.

"He was amazing!" said Chiacchia. "I had one hairy moment at fence 10 where he jumped into the water beautifully and then took a stumble step and got his nose under water, but he just pulled himself up and kept going. It was a testament to his willingness to get the job done."

While Chiacchia is in third position with a score of 50.20, two Americans are ahead of him in the standings. Karen O'Connor is in first place with a score of 48.70 penalty points riding Theodore O'Connor while Phillip Dutton riding Truluck is in second position with a score of 49.80. With all three competitors tightly grouped within two points of each other, Sunday's final phase of show jumping will be the deciding factor.

"He wants to keep the rails up in show jumping, so it is a matter of me going in there and focusing and getting the job done," said Chiacchia, 41, who claimed the Individual Gold Medal four years ago riding Windfall 2. Of his current partner, Better I Do It, Chiacchia said, "this horse just keeps getting better and better! The nice thing is that there is still more to come, we have not yet maximized his potential."

Of the 26 horses that began Saturday's cross-country phase, 21 completed the course and will be presented at the mandatory horse inspection before the final phase of show jumping begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 22. At the conclusion, both team and individual medals will be awarded.

In addition to earning the Individual Gold Medal at the 2003 Pan American Championships, Chiacchia successfully represented his country at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, and was a member of the Bronze Medal Team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

"This has been such a treat," said Chiacchia of his experience at the 2007 Pan American Games. "I have been fortunate to have been involved with a lot of teams, and this is a great group of people. Everyone has jumped in to help each other, and there is a lot of camaraderie. It has been an honor to be involved."

Chiacchia, who operates Independence Farm, divides the year between his training facilities in Ocala, FL, and Springville, NY, just outside of Buffalo. In addition to operating one of the country´s top eventing breeding, training and sales barns, Chiacchia is committed to the improvement of the sport and volunteers his expertise on several committees of the United States Eventing Association. As an instructor, Chaicchia has been extremely successful and has coached several talented junior and young riders to numerous victories.

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