Many were not happy with the new format. “Personally, I think the old format was way better. I believe the first day should count for much more than it does today,” commented Eric Lamaze. “I think the championship should be decided on every day, not just the [individual] final over one day.”
The first round was very inviting and saw 30 clear rounds of the 50 starters, including all members of team Canada and team USA. Although it was an unusually high number of clear rounds, Ian Millar explained that this was actually a very clever approach used by course designer Michel Vaillancourt to “desensitize” the horses fresh from training camp.
The horses enjoyed one day of rest and came back for the two-round team competition. To increase the pressure, Vaillancourt made a tight time allowed, which caused at least one time fault in almost 75% of the rounds. “The time allowed is making it harder than the course actually is, which is great,” noted Lamaze. “I think Michel did a fantastic job setting an honest course with a short time allowed, which makes it ride a little bigger than it is.” Lamaze added that it is better to have a tight time allowed than to have bigger fences with some of the less experienced countries competing.
Yann Candele and Showgirl were the first of the Canadian team to experience the tight time, incurring one time fault with a clear round. Tiffany and Tripple X were up next, but pilot error resulted in a refusal, leaving the pair with four jumping plus three time faults. “I made a mistake after the triple that was purely rider error, nothing to do with him,” explained Foster after.
With the pressure on, Eric and Coco Bongo had a rail, which surprised the rider who was at a loss as to what happened. “I don’t know, I have no idea. It felt great.”
Finally, anchor rider Ian Millar and Dixson had a single time fault to leave the team with 12 faults at the end of the first round, tied for third with Brazil.
The top of the leaderboard after round one was a surprise to many, with Colombia leading the way with just a single penalty, followed by Argentina with two penalties. Although the two countries weren’t a factor at the last Pan Ams – both finishing with scores in the 50s – they have dramatically improved since. Another surprise was to see the USA in sixth on 12 faults, behind the Chileans, trained by Canadian team veteran Jay Hayes, in fifth with 11 faults.
With no margin for error, the vast experience of Canadian riders under such circumstances paid off with three clear rounds and a single rail for Millar and Dixson in the second round. The gold medal was secured when the last Argentinian rider, Jose Maria Larocca and Cornet Du Lys, crossed the finish line just a fraction of a second too late, earning a single time fault and averting a jump-off with Canada for the gold. With the silver medal, the Argentinians earned the other Olympic team berth.
The Canadians were thrilled to be able to deliver the gold in front of the home crowd. “It’s such a partisan crowd,” Millar enthused. “They want it so much for us. You sense that and that truly is home-court advantage, because this team lives for pressure and it just makes us better.”
Athletes were given another rest day before the individual final, which was open to the top 35 combinations – but only the three highest-ranked athletes from each team. As a result, Canada lost Foster, who had been 18th, while the USA lost Kent Farrington, who was 9th through the first three rounds.
The Canadians had given their best on the team day and did not fare well during the individuals. Lamaze and Coco Bongo had completed most of the course on a clear round, when a surprise stop by the careful stallion in the middle of the triple combination left the pair with eight jumping and two time faults. “It’s not disappointing, it’s not a horse that’s scared, it’s just a horse that is extremely careful and he wasn’t sure how to solve that triple and he just held himself back,” Lamaze said. The pair finished the round in 21st place and would not make the second round, which was limited to the top 20.
During their round Millar and Dixson ran into trouble, incurring eight faults. “Sometimes they really rise to the occasion, and sometimes they don’t, and it just wasn’t particularly our day,” Millar said later. Another four jumping penalties and one time fault in the second round left the pair in 16th place.
With the best overall score, Yann and Showgirl were the last Canadians to go, but scored eight faults in both rounds to finish 19th overall. “It was a good round, just a bad result,” Candele said after. He also revealed that Showgirl, the chestnut mare purchased for him by the Watermark Group for the 2014 World Equestrian Games and these Pan Ams, would not be vying for a place on the Olympic team. “She’s getting a little older,” he said. “I have a few other horses who are very capable, but we have to go through the process and try to be part of the Canadian team.”
After the second round there was a five-way tie for bronze which was decided in a jump-off, with Lauren Hough and Ohlala victorious on the only clear round. This was followed by a jump-off for gold between McLain Ward on Rothchild and Andres Rodriguez on Darlon Van Groenhove. Rodriguez was first to go and dropped a rail, but Ward still put in a speedy clear to earn individual gold. “This horse defies the odds a bit. He doesn’t really go like he should be a show jumper, and yet he’s won a couple of million dollars, a bunch of big grands prix, and now the Pan Am Games.”
Rodriguez was thrilled with the silver medal. “This is amazing. Every athlete’s dream is to go to the Olympic Games. I wanted to qualify my team for the Olympics; we didn’t succeed, but today I had a chance to qualify as an individual.” Under FEI rules, all individual medalists are automatically qualified for the grand prix at CSIOs for the next four years. Rodriguez was particularly happy with this achievement, “All of this pre-qualifying for the grand prix that we struggle with, now I just go in knowing that I can keep my horse fresh for the grand prix.”
Overall, riders were thrilled with the competition and had high praise for the facilities and management. “Pretty phenomenal,” is how McLain put it. “I think they’ve done a great job. The conditions for the horses and the staff and us was fantastic, the footing was great, the stables were beautiful. I think to have a sustainable facility here is also great for this region, something that can be used to continue to raise the sport in this area.”
GOLD: Canada 7 Rnd1 Rnd2
Yann Candele / Showgirl 1 1
Tiffany Foster / Tripple X III (7) 0
Eric Lamaze / Coco Bongo 4 0
Ian Millar / Dixson 1 (5)
SILVER: Argentina 8
Ramiro Quintana / Whitney (5) 0
Matias Albarracin / Cannavaro 9 1 (6)
Luis Pedro Biraben / Abunola 0 5
José Larocca Jr / Cornet Du Lys 1 1
BRONZE: United States 12
McLain Ward / Rothchild 4 0
Georgina Bloomberg / Lilli 4 (0)
Lauren Hough / Ohlala 4 0
Kent Farrington / Gazelle (5) 0
4. Brazil 14 Rnd1 Rnd2
Pedro Veniss / Quabri De L Isle 1 4
Felipe Amaral /Premiere Carthoes BZ (4) (4)
Eduardo Menezes / Quintol 1 0
Marlon Zanotelli / Rock’n Roll Semilly 4 4
5. Colombia 15
Daniel Bluman / Conconcreto Sancha LS 0 4
Rene Lopez / Con Dios III (6) 5
Fernando Cardenas / Quincy Car 1 (9)
Roberto Teran Tafur / Woklahoma 0 5
6. Chile 29
7. Venezuela 38
8. Mexico 39
9. Uruguay 45
10. Guatemala 46
Place/Rider/Horse/Ctry RndA RndB JO or Total
GOLD: McLain Ward, Rothchild (USA) 0 0 0-42.89
SILVER: Andres Rodriguez, Darlon Van Groenhove (VEN) 0 0 4-39.45
BRONZE: Lauren Hough, Ohlala (USA) 4 0 0/42.15
4. José María Larocca Jr, Cornet Du Lys (ARG) 0 4 4-40.17
5. Pedro Veniss, Quabri De L Isle (BRA) 4 0 4-40.39
6. Emanuel Andrade, Hardrock Z (VEN) 4 0 8-43.46
7. Luis Pedro Biraben, Abunola (ARG) 4 0 8-43.74
8. Matias Albarracin, Cannavaro 9 (ARG) 4 1 5
9. Nestor Van Hoff, Prince Royal Z de la Luz (URU) 4 4 8
9. Eduardo Menezes, Quintol (BRA) 4 4 8
11. Alonso Valdez, Ferrero Van Overis (PER) 8 4 12
11. Fernando Cardenas, Quincy Car (COL) 8 4 12
11. Felipe Amaral, Premiere Carthoes BZ (BRA) 8 4 12
11. Daniel Bluman, Conconcreto Sancha LS (COL) 8 4 12
11. Georgina Bloomberg, Lilli (USA) 4 8 12
16. Patrick Nisbett, Quick Z (BER) 8 5 13
16. Hector Florentino, Allure G. (DOM) 8 5 13
16. Ian Millar, Dixson (CAN) 8 5 13
19. Yann Candele, Showgirl (CAN) 8 8 16
20. Martin Rodriguez Vanni, Liborius (URU) 9 10 19
21. Juan Rodriguez Silva, Bugatti (GUA) 9 35 44