Round 1 – A Rocky Start
The excitement and hope in the air was palpable the morning of the team finals at the Pan Am Games in Lima. The big track set by Guilherme Jorge of Brazil quickly began sifting out riders, with a fall and refusals in the first early group.
Canada’s first rider, Lisa Carlsen with Parette, looked confident and began the course well, but fell afoul in the tough triple combination that turned out to be the bogey jump for many, bringing down two elements for 8 faults. She remarked, “My horse jumped super. I didn’t quite get into the triple combination as I’d have liked – I had one too many [strides] off the corner, so I didn’t jump in well enough to give her a good chance to jump it, so that was my mistake at B and C, not hers. I thought she was fabulous and I hope she comes back and I don’t repeat that mistake.”
Erynn Ballard and Fellini S had a repeat performance of the previous day’s fault-free result. ” I don’t even really have words,” said the delighted rider. “Just like yesterday the pressure’s on for all of us and he rose to the occasion. He’s good with the crowds; he knows that everybody is here watching him. At the jog when he was getting sassy I said then that he just thinks that all his fans are here so he had to put on a show for them. I think he put on a show for all of his fans out there today.”
On dealing with the pressure of a championship team format, Ballard said, “You have to be able to just separate it and ride for that moment. What happened yesterday doesn’t matter; what happens in the next round doesn’t matter. I just had to focus on him and the course and me and I think I was able to do that. You hope the second round gets easier, but it’s not an easy sport. So I kind of have to take the first round out of my head and start all over again.”
She added that she has tweaked her routine and habits a bit recently. “Typically I’ve ridden first for the team – I like to go early. I haven’t had my best luck riding first the last few times, so I asked Mark [Laskin] if we could change it up a little bit.” Another good luck charm was a new red jacket to replace her old one from 2005. “So far it’s working!”
Nicole Walker and Falco van Spieveld also incurred 8 faults late on the course. “The first three-quarters of the course was really good and then I think I just got a touch deep into the triple and I had A down –it’s a very tall, light vertical – and then down the last line I left just a bit too much room to the last oxer. My horse usually has such a big stride and covers that ground no problem; he maybe was just a bit gassed after the triple and I should have just given him a bit more contact and help there.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the very uncharacteristic 16 faults racked up by anchor Mario Deslauriers and Amsterdam. The pair had an early rail at fence #2 but seemed to regroup well only to have three more rails at the end of the course. Said a disappointed Deslauriers, “I kind of got stuck at #2 a little bit and I think he hit it hard and got a little rattled and lost his shape. Then I lost a bit of rideability and it snowballed. He lost his focus and I lost mine a little bit. It was just kind of weird. We will school again and I will ride better.”
At the conclusion of the first round, Canada sat in 4th place with 22.21 faults behind Brazil (7.39), The USA (10.09) and Mexico (10.97).
Round 2 – The Bad News, and the Good News
Teams and individuals returned for the second round over the same course, many hoping to improve on their first-round scores, including most of the Canadians. It was not to be for Lisa Carlsen and Parette, who repeated an 8-fault round with rails at different fences than the first time out. “I jumped the triple this time,” she noted wryly. “I had more horse this time. I’m so proud of her, I thought she jumped super. Everything is always a earning experience; there’s little things I’ve learned about her here and I can just take them on to the next venue and hopefully it helps me so she and I can keep growing together.”
Erynn Ballard and Fellini S had another outstanding ride, becoming one of only two double-clear efforts in this two-round competition, finishing in second place individually and guaranteeing a spot in the Individual Final on Friday. “In some ways, the pressure was off a bit [knowing that fourth place would be mission accomplished re: Tokyo]. I felt good walking back into the second round and in general I was a little bit more relaxed.
“What more can you say? That horse jumped his heart out two rounds in a row,” she continued. “I don’t think there was even a jump where I was like ‘oh my goodness, you got lucky’– every single jump was ‘that’s clear, that’s clear’.” Jumping double clear in a place like this, and jumping clear for Mark, that’s a pretty big deal for me.”
Nicole Walker and Falco van Spieveld improved in the second round, lowering only one fence. “I fixed the mistakes we made and I just got a little bit careless at one skinny; it’s a light jump and you could just breathe on it and it would fall down. I was a bit unlucky there, but I was much happier with this round.”
Walker described the general atmosphere at these Games. “There’s way more pressure for sure, especially with the Olympic qualification, but there’s been a lot of fans in the crowd and being here with the team all week and getting the chance to bond with them and doing team things together, it’s been pretty special.” The pair would finish the day in 12th place; the top 35 will advance to the Final.
The most improved second-round effort went to Mario Deslauriers and Amsterdam, who had a single rail this time out and clinched a place in the Individual Final, finishing 19th. “It was a bit better rhythm; we still got stuck a bit at the triple bar at the second fence, but I think the horse learned a lot from the first to the second round. It’s a young horse that doesn’t have that much experience with the type of nerves that we’re riding with for a competition like that.” He commented on landing the Olympic qualification for the team via one of the three berths on offer. “That’s good, that’s what we came here for, but to win a medal would have been kind of nice. It’s a little disappointing, for myself, anyway.
Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin concurred, “It would have been nice to have a medal, but our priority was coming down here to qualify for the Olympics, so I’m extremely happy – mission accomplished.”
Looking ahead to Friday, Deslauriers remarked, “So now we look forward; everyone starts in a clean slate for the individual, so we’ll put our best foot forward and try to pull it off.”
Gold: Brazil 12.39
Silver: Mexico 22.97
Bronze: USA 23.09
4th – Canada 30.21
For complete results click here.