The final day of Eventing competition saw 25 competitors start over the course designed by Marina Azevedo of Brazil. The USA started the day with a 15.3 fault lead over Brazil in second, but with less than four faults separating Brazil from Canada in third. In a nail-biting finish, the competition came down to the last rider on course, but consistent performances by the Canadian team, and many dropped rails by others, earned the team its first team gold medal since 1991 by a margin of just .1 penalty point over the US.
This is only the fourth time Canadian eventers have won gold in this event following wins in 1959, 1971, and 1991. (Note: The win in 1991 win was at Chatsworth, Georgia, in an event held separately from the Pan Am Games.)
Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye were the first in for Canada and set the tempo with a fault-free round, the only combination to do so over the course of the day. This performance boosted them into 6th overall and earned Loach her best individual result of her three Pan Am competitions.
“My horse is an exceptional jumper,” said Loach afterward. “I knew if I did my job, he would do his, so that is very confidence-inspiring going in.”
Mike Winter and El Mundo followed with another clear round adding just .8 time faults to finish in 5th overall. Having been on two silver medal teams at the 2003 and 2007 Pan Am Games, this was Winter’s best individual performance.
Following Winter’s round, Rafael Mamprin Losano and Withington of Brazil had two rails and .8 time faults which boosted Canada into second overall. Then the first US rider, Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire, also had two rails and 1.2 time faults, diminishing their lead.
Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo were third in for Canada and had two rails which was still good enough to earn 4th place individually, another Canadian personal best at his second Pan Am Games appearance.
“I’m super excited to be part of this team,” he enthused after. “We all worked really hard to get this qualification. That was the goal and we achieved it so we couldn’t be happier.”
The last Canadian to go was Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge who jumped clear, adding 1.6 time faults. Following rails by all three of the top-placed US riders she was boosted into third, winning individual bronze in her first Canadian team outing.
“People have been saying that it’s the strongest Canadian team they’ve sent in a while and I think we proved it,” she said post-competition. “My horse is a fantastic jumper so I was really just riding him well and I knew he was dependable and would do the job. Olympics here we come!”
The team universally credited the win to Canada’s new Eventing High Performance group.
“This is the culmination of almost two years of complete High Performance Canada restructuring,” Winter, who acts as an athlete representative for the group, explained. “We didn’t just win this medal, our High Performance group, which includes the chair, vets, farriers, selectors … it’s so much more. We executed today but that sort of foundation, what we are surrounded with, is so important.”
“We’ve tried to align training pathways, cultures, mentality and competitive execution. Those are all things, the way the team vet interacts with us year-round about how our horses are looking post-competitions, galloping, High performance taking an interest in our fitness programs. Rebecca Howard, our chef d’équipe, she’s there to enable all our training pathways, whether it be with our own individual coaches or her as our primary coach. It’s just been a really positive environment and it’s allowed us all to do our best and to be able to perform to our best. That’s so key. It’s not one thing that is sort of magical or exceptional that does it, it’s all these sort of small things that come together and everybody who is so dedicated to that process. The grooms, everybody, people you won’t meet here like the selectors that worked hard on criteria and what we need to accomplish to get to this point.
“I’ve been in the High Performance program since 1995 and been on teams since 2003 and this is the most solid, productive structure that has an ability to be nimble and flexible and reactive to any problems.”
Show jumping starts on Tuesday, where Canada’s team will be vying for their own qualification to Paris. There are three spots available, with USA and Brazil being the biggest threats.