Canadian Eventing Team Wins Silver Medal at Pan American Games
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photo: Shannon Brinkman
The third and final phase of competition, show jumping, took place on Sunday, July 22, at the National Equestrian Centre located north of downtown Rio. Team and individual medal ceremonies immediately followed. For the third consecutive time, the United States won gold. The team from host country Brazil took the bronze medal. The teams of Chile and Argentina finished with incomplete teams, having lost members through retirement and elimination during the three-day competition.
In addition to its Silver Medal, the Canadian Eventing Team earned one of two berths for the 2008 Olympic Games through its Pan Am finish. The United States was already qualified through its world championship performance last year, giving the two Olympic starting spots to the next best placed teams, Canada and Brazil.
The Canadian Eventing Team at this Pan Am Games was a relatively young one with three riders competing in a major international championship for the first time.
Canadian Team Technical Advisor David O'Connor expressed pride in his team's performance, saying "There were six cross-country rounds under the time and three of them were Canadian. Canada was also the only country to finish with four clear jumping rounds on cross-country. They have done a fantastic job."
Canada had been sitting in silver medal position since the first day of competition, the dressage. The U.S. team, consisting of three seasoned Olympic veterans, established a lead that would stand throughout the remaining days of competition. Canadian Chef d'Equipe Graeme Thom noted that the riders all exceeded expectations in the dressage phase.
"It was a personal best for everyone," said Thom, who added that the aggressive and competitive spirit displayed by the Canadians on cross-country was equally impressive. The U.S. had one team member experience difficulty on course, but since only the top three scores out of four riders count towards the team placings, the U.S. entered the final phase in gold medal position.
Renowned Brazilian course designer, Guilherme Jorge, set Sunday's challenging show jumping track. Of the 21 horses that competed in the show jumping phase, only four had rounds with no jumping faults, and only three of those were free of time penalties over the course featuring 12 numbered obstacles and 15 jumping efforts spread over 490 meters.
Waylon Roberts, 18, of Port Perry, ON, was the first Canadian Team rider on course, the order of go being in reverse order of standing. Roberts completed his round with Paleface, a 12-year-old Canadian Thoroughbred gelding owned by Kelly Plitz, with 20 jumping penalties and an overall total score of 82.90 to finish 15th individually.
"He was tired after running a long course and going for the time," said Roberts, sympathetic to his horse's effort. "It was also hot today. I thought he tried his heart out."
It became apparent that the partisan Brazilian crowd planned to cheer loudly any time a member of the Canadian or American team, both ahead of Brazil in the team standings, incurred penalties. This was unnerving for horses and athletes alike.
Michael Winter, 32, was next on the show jumping course with Kingpin, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by the Kingpin Syndicate. An unfortunate three rails, combined with four time faults, left him in eighth place individually with a score of 75.1. Winter was the top placed Canadian at the last Pan Am Eventing Championship, leading the team to the silver medal.
"2003 was my first team experience," said Winter, noting that both Pan Am Games have been valuable experiences. "It was an important part of me growing as team athlete. Here it was more of an international experience. They are both very important points in my career, and both times I had great team mates."
The last Canadian team rider to compete was Kyle Carter, a Calgarian who is currently based in Florida. Following the cross-country phase, Carter was tied with American Gina Miles for fourth place. Madison Park, a nine-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Carter and Nicole Shinton, was the least experienced horse on the team. Carter missed an opportunity at an individual medal when his horse brought rails down at two of the oxers on course, and gathered two time penalties. Finishing fifth individually with a final total of 66.30 penalty points, Carter was happy with the outcome of his second Pan Am Games team experience.
"He is a younger horse and I couldn't be happier with him," noted Carter, who also represented Canada at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, MB. "My primary focus was on the team. I wanted to make sure I didn't risk our silver medal."
Canada's individual athlete in the competition, Jessica Phoenix, 23, of Uxbridge, ON, on her 10-year-old thoroughbred gelding Exploring, had the best show jumping performance of all the Canadian eventing athletes. With just one fence down on course, she improved her placing from 15th after cross-country to 12th with 78.80 penalties.
"My horse is just amazing, and he jumped out of his skin for me," said Phoenix, who was riding in her first major international competition.
The individual competition saw a clean medal sweep for the United States. Karen O'Connor and Theodore O'Connor maintained their lead to win the gold medal ahead of teammate Phillip Dutton on Truluck. A third US team rider, Gina Miles on McKinlaigh, moved up from her fourth placed tie with Carter to claim the bronze medal.
Equestrian sport continues at the Pan American Games on Thursday, July 25, with show jumping. Canada's show jumping team will compete for team medals awarded on Friday, July 27, and individual medals on Sunday, July 29.
2007 Pan American Games - Final Individual Eventing Standings
Rider Country Horse Score
12. Jessica Pheonix Uxbridge, ON Exploring 78.80
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