On a day that bubbled with excitement, Team USA stood firm to take Dressage team gold, Team Brazil made history when slotting into silver medal position and the defending champions from Canada took bronze at the Pan American Games 2023 in Quillota, Chile.
This was the ninth PanAm Dressage team title for the USA as the side of Christian Simonson (Son of a Lady), Anna Marek (Fire Fly), Codi Harrison (Katholt’s Bossco) and Sarah Tubman (First Apple) finished on a tally of 450.670. Brazil completed on 443.343 and Canada posted a score of 431.937. (For a report on how the Canadians did, click here.)
As the US is already qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games it was the Brazilians and Canadians who claimed the two qualifying spots on offer. The hosts from Chile finished fourth on 423.672.
Today’s tests were Intermediate l for Small Tour and Grand Prix Special for Big Tour combinations, and the biggest score was posted by Ecuadorian individual Julio Mendoza Loor and Jewel’s Goldstrike who topped the Special with 78.617. Yesterday’s Grand Prix winning partnership of João Victor Marcari Oliva and Feel Good VO from Brazil slotted into a very close second when putting 78.612 on the board and defending individual champion Sarah Tubman from the USA finished third with Little Apple on 76.872.
Four years ago the American pair were competing at Small Tour level, and this time around they showed just how much they have developed their partnership when stepping up to the Big Tour challenge so successfully.
The Americans came out today with all guns blazing and 21-year-old Christian Simonson got them off to the perfect start when taking a strong lead in the Intermediate l when posting 74.971 which would leave him best in the Small Tour competition and individually fourth at the end of the day. That was backed up by 74.489 from Marek and Fire Fly, and 71.957 from Harrison riding Katholt’s Bossco before Tubman put the icing on the cake with her 76.872.
“It’s been such an amazing week!” said Florida-based Tubman. “We are the youngest team the US has sent out in quite a while and I’m really proud to say we all delivered personal bests across the board along with amazing camaraderie!
“It’s one thing to stand up there and have the national anthem played because of your performances, and it’s completely different to do it next to three friends!”
Success today was particularly emotional for the 35-year-old as she remembered her former sponsor, Gerry Ibanez, who passed away not long after she won the individual medal at the last Pan Americans in Lima, Peru four years ago.
Harrison, who hails from Kansas but now also lives in Florida, USA said “you dream of making it into a championship like this and for it to come real is the best feeling!”
Simonson’s Danish-bred gelding was formerly competed by Spanish Olympian and prolific producer of young Dressage horses Severo Jurado Lopez, and by Danish Olympian and World Championship team gold medallist Carina Cassøe Krüth. “I’m really fortunate to ride him,” said the young American. “He’s one of the only horses I’ve met that…even if he doesn’t win, that fighting feeling he gives you is probably the best thing!”
The Brazilians had a lot to celebrate today. Not only have they been hugely impressive so far, with the relatively inexperienced Paulo Cesar Dos Santos (Fidel Da Sasa JE) and Renderson Silva De Oliveira (Fogoso Campline) showing extraordinary potential in their first year at Grand Prix level, but this foursome have also earned Brazil’s first-ever Pan American Dressage team silver medals along with that coveted Olympic slot. There was an enormous sense of achievement for them, and a sense that this is only the first step on a new journey ahead.
“This is the most special day of my life, a really important moment in my career!” said Dos Santos. “It’s been a really hard year for me but I was confident that I would be here with a very strong team and we would be able to get our objective – the silver medal and also the qualification for the Olympic Games. I want to thank this amazing team – we are all warriors here together – and all the people back in Brazil, my family and my friends who are cheering for me. They push us to be here in this great moment and I want to share this moment with them as well!”
João Victor Marcari Oliva said of his fellow team-members, “They are not just partners in competition, they are friends in life!” His horse, Feel Good, is special to him because he’s had him since he was 18 months old and they have grown up together. “He’s been with me a very long time and today he gave me everything we trained for over this last nine and a half years together. I’m so happy with him and he deserves a sacks of carrots now!” said the 27-year-old rider.
Manuel Rodrigues Tavares de Almeida Neto, who got married just a few weeks ago, said the last time he competed was at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and that, coming back to the sport after six years, this has been a dream year.
“I got this mare in April, the first German horse I was riding”, said the 30-year-old athlete who is more attuned to the Lusitano horses so closely associated with his successful equestrian family. “It was quite a challenge and I couldn’t be happier with the result. We made history here today and I really hope João and Renderson can make more history the day after tomorrow!”
“For Brazil this result puts us in a spot we’ve never been before, and in the next years I think there is much more to come so we can start dreaming and planning to make history at the Olympics as well – not this one (Paris 2024) but the next one!” he added.
Meanwhile, the top 23 combinations have qualified for Wednesday’s individual Freestyle medal-decider, so don’t miss a hoofbeat….