Lausanne (SUI), 25 October 2011 – American riders scooped Eventing Team gold in convincing fashion at the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday when all five team-members sensationally completed on their Dressage scores. But the USA had to settle for silver and bronze in the battle for the Individual title, as Canada’s Jessica Phoenix stood firm to capitalise on the advantage she had established in the Dressage arena last Friday.
It was a historic result for 28-year-old Phoenix, who hails from Uxbridge, Ontario as she is only the second Canadian rider ever to earn individual Eventing gold in the history of the Pan-American Games. Riding the nine-year-old Westphalian gelding, Pavarotti, she set the target with a Dressage mark of 43.90 and never looked back. A flawless Cross Country performance on Saturday was followed by another copybook round over the coloured poles on Sunday to clinch individual gold. “It’s a dream come true,” she said afterwards.
The Dressage placings proved pivotal, as the top four all remained within that grouping, although America’s Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot improved from third to fill silver medal spot in the final analysis. Team-mate, Bruce Davidson Jr., moved up from fourth to take the bronze at the expense of fellow-American Michael Pollard who narrowly missed a medal-placing with two fences down on the final afternoon.
“For me and this whole team, our goal was to win team gold,” said Davidson. “There was more pressure and more joy in winning that. We are such a close team, I feel bad for Michael – I almost feel guilty sitting here. You want to come as a team, win as a team and leave as a team – and that’s what we’re going to do”, he pointed out during the post-competition press conference.
Cross Country day was busy, with 17 eliminations and one retirement from a starting field of 49 runners, but eight horse-and-rider combinations returned clear within the time limit of 9 minutes 30 seconds. Phoenix was one of the latter, timing her round to perfection when breaking the beam two seconds inside the optimum time after a great tour of the 5,225 metre track designed by America’s John Williams.
“Pavarotti is such a great cross-country horse,” Phoenix said on Saturday. “He’s straight and bold and has an incredible gallop. I’m so proud of him, because he jumped extremely well the whole way today.”
And he was foot-perfect again on Sunday in both rounds of the final Jumping phase. The Team result was decided in the first of these when the top three individual results from each country were taken into account. Phoenix, Rebecca Howard (Roquefort) and James Atkinson (Gustav) combined their scores for a mark of 172.50, which left them with a 36-point advantage over the bronze medallists from Brazil whose top three finishers were Serguei Fofanoff (Barbara TW), Marcio Jorge (Josefine MCJ) and Jesper Martendal (Land Jimmy). But the winning side was in no doubt as all five Americans completed without a single fault to add to their Dressage scores. Their final tally of 138.60 left them with a 33.9-point winning margin.
And it was an extra-important day for the bronze medal winners from Brazil as they, along with the fourth-placed Argentineans, secured qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
According to the rules of the Pan-American Games, only the best three from each team are permitted to advance to the Individual final round, so the two Americans Shannon Lilly (Ballingowan Pizazz) and Lynn Symansky (Donner) had to watch from the sidelines as 25-year-old Hannah Burnett steered Harbour Pilot – an eight-year-old Irish Sport Horse produced by Canadian team leader and 2000 Olympic Games Individual gold medallist David O’Connor of the USA – into Individual silver spot ahead of Davidson with Absolute Liberty. This was the first Pan-American medal for Davidson, who finished sixth at the Games in 1999 and whose father, Bruce Davidson Snr., had claimed individual gold four years earlier.
“The Mexican Federation deserves a huge round of applause from all of us,” said David O’Connor at the end of the competition, “and congratulations to the Americans, they had real camaraderie that showed,” he added. “None of us would be here without the team of people that we have behind us, from our coaches to our support staff to our families at home who are probably both cheering and crying right now,” said Canada’s newly-crowned individual gold medallist Phoenix, who sang Pavarotti’s praises – “I love this horse, and I am so excited for his future!” she said.
Teams: GOLD – USA 138.60, Schoensgreen Hanni (Michael Pollard) 44.50, Harbour Pilot (Hannah Burnett) 45.20, Absolute Liberty (Bruce Davidson Jr) 48.90, Ballingowan Pizazz (Shannon Lilley) 49.30, Donner (Lynn Symansky) 52.20; SILVER – Canada 172.50, Pavarotti (Jessica Phoenix) 43.90, Roquefort (Rebecca Howard) 62.90, Gustav (James Atkinson) 65.70, Foxwood High (Selena O’Hanlon) 79.20, Five O’Clock Somewhere (Hawley Bennett) 79.60; BRONZE – Brazil 209.80, Barbara TW (Serguei Fofanoff) 61.80, Josefine MCJ (Marcio Jorge) 66.80, Land Jimmy (Jesper Mrtendal) 81.20, Eleda All Black (Marcelo Tosi) 94.30, Tom Bombadill Too (Ruy Fonseca) 1,000.00.
Individual: GOLD – Pavarotti (Jessica Phoenix) CAN 43.90; SILVER – Harbour Pilot (Hannah Burnett) USA 45.20; BRONZE – Absolute Liberty (Bruce Davidson Jr) USA 48.90.
Facts and Figures:
The Ground Jury for Eventing at the 2011 Pan-American Games consisted of Argentina’s Janine Cicurel Rohr, America’s Wayne Quarles and Alain James from France (President).
The two teams which qualified for the London Olympic Games in Eventing were Brazil and Argentina.
33,000 spectators were present on Cross Country day.
Cross Country details:
Length of course: 5,225 metres with a speed of 550 metres/minute.
Time allowed: 9 minutes 30 seconds.
49 starters, 31 completed.
8 competitors clear within the time allowed.
13 competitors clear jumping with time penalties.
2 competitors with jumping penalties within the time allowed- Selena O’Hanlon CAN, Federico Gonzalo Daners URU.
1 competitor retired.
17 competitors were eliminated.
For further information on the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, visit website here.
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