Final Impressions of the Pan American Games

This is the next post in our Lauren Kieffer Eventing Blog Series powered by Athletux. We hear once again from Jo Kieffer, mom to Pan American Games team gold medalist Lauren Kieffer, who told us what it meant to have her daughter competing in her first major championships earlier this month in this blog. Now she checks back in after the competition to reflect on the experience.

Victorious Team USA: Marilyn Little, Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton and Lauren Kieffer. Photo by Jenni Autry. Victorious Team USA: Marilyn Little, Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton and Lauren Kieffer. Photo by Jenni Autry.

I thought I knew about being part of a big competition. I found I still have plenty to learn after the Pan American Games. From the security, the mix of languages all around us, the sense of purpose and intensity in the barns, the obvious national pride of the audience and the athletes — there was no doubt this was going to be a different sort of weekend.

One of my biggest impressions was how different things were because this was a team competition. This is normally such an individual sport. There is always great camaraderie between eventing competitors, but no one is going to feel badly about moving up because someone they know dropped a rail or didn’t make the time.

This was a much different experience.  These riders were truly a team. They were there to sink or swim together, and I include Jennie Brannigan in this group. The better each person’s ride, the better they all felt. You could also sense the pressure in knowing they carried the fate of the entire team on their individual shoulders.

So when it was all done, those hugs and grins you saw on that podium were quite genuine. They believed in each other and in David O’Connor’s program. I also can’t say enough good things about all the people you did not see on that podium. Those riders knew that they were there due to the help of their own connections and the amazing support of the USEF team.

I have never considered myself a sentimental person. But I defy anyone to not feel a rush of several different emotions when you watch your child on that podium, see them drape that medal around her neck, hear the music of our anthem and watch our flag rise up that center flag pole.

I will also never forget my first sight of Lauren in her red coat. There are so many hours, hopes, successes and disappointments wrapped up in that coat. I still remember the look on her face when her trainer told what the red coat meant. She was not was going to be satisfied until she had one of her own. Now she does. She is now a team rider. Hopefully there will be many more team events in her future, but nothing will replace the memory of this first one.

So now Papa Kieffs and I are back in Illinois, and Lauren is headed to England. This is the first time in over 15 years that we have not planned our entire year around Lauren’s show schedule. I miss it already. The Pan American Games were only one dream come true. I am content to wait and see where Lauren’s dreams take us next.