What an unbelievable finale at the 2015 Pan American Games! The U.S. and Brazilian teams came into show jumping here at Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park separated by just 3.7 penalties. Brazil’s first two riders both jumped clear rounds, which put the pressure on the U.S. after Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive pulled a rail at fence two as the first combination out for Team USA.
Then the clear rounds ping-ponged back and forth between U.S. and Brazil. Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett — clear. Carlos Paro and Calcourt Landline — clear. Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa — clear. Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous entered the ring as the penultimate pair to jump and the power to secure team gold for the U.S. if they also jumped clear.
And they did — just as the skies opened and rain started falling here in Palgrave. Ominous thunder rolled as overnight leaders Ruy Fonseca and Tom Bombadill Too entered they ring as the final pair to go. Brazil could only finish as high as silver position in the team standings, but Ruy was one show jumping round away from wearing an individual gold medal around his neck.
Ruy and Tom Bombadill Too put in a foot perfect round and gold seemed all but won — until the final fence. The rail fell, Ruy hung his head, and suddenly Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous were the new Pan American Games individual gold medalists. In just a few quick minutes, we experienced firsthand the incredible highs and incredible lows of eventing.
Indeed, it’s been an emotional day here in Palgrave, and there are countless stories we’ll be rehashing in the coming days. Canada cheered their hearts out all day for the home team, who wore bronze medals around their necks in the prize giving. Waylon Roberts and Bill Owen pulled one rail to finish 17th individually. Qorry Blue d’Argouges jumped out of his skin today and delivered a beautiful clear round with Colleen Loach to finish eighth.
Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti, who won individual gold at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, ultimately came just 1.8 penalties shy of repeating that feat. They jumped double clear today — with Jessica giving Pavarotti a big hug around his neck as they left the stadium — to secure the individual silver medal for Canada’s golden girl.
And the fantastic story lines go on and on. By winning team gold and besting the other unqualified teams, the U.S. secured a qualifying spot for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a goal the country has been chasing since failing to secure a spot at last year’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
Brazil, a nation we’ll all be watching very closely with the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro just a year away, won individual bronze and team silver. Ecuador finished in fourth place with just a three-man team, and Mexico pulled only one rail between their three-rider team to finish in fifth. Carlos Lobos and Ranco of Chile broke up the U.S.-Brazil-Canada monopoly at the top of the leaderboard by finish in sixth place individually.
Eight countries ultimately completed a team at these Pan American Games: the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay and Colombia. That’s an exciting number of up-and-coming eventing countries, which signals that eventing is only continuing to grow in this part of the world. That can only bolster the playing field at home and push us to be better.
Comments from the U.S., Canadian and Brazilian teams; U.S. coach David O’Connor; and Mexican coach Karen O’Connor and Daniela Moguel, who finished 12th individually, are coming your way next. Good friend of EN and scoring wizard Steve Symansky kindly put together final results that are much better than what’s on the Pan Ams website. Click here to view those.
Keep checking back for much more from the #PanAmGames, including a gallery from photographer extraordinaire Cindy Lawler and our top takeaways from the competition. Thank you to the organizers, volunteers and press team for making this possible, and thank you to all of you for following along. Go Eventing.