The U.S. Team celebrates their gold medal victory at the Pan American Games.
The U.S. Team kept their cool to deliver four competitive rides and secure the Team Gold Medal at the Pan American Games in Ontario, Canada last weekend. They also earned an all-important qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Top-placed US rider Marilyn Little was clear and inside the time on RF Scandalous, which opened the door for her to take Individual gold when overnight leader Ruy Fonseca of Brazil dropped the very last rail on the show jumping course.
Going into show jumping the US was in gold position, Brazil in silver and Canada bronze. Due to Kathryn Robinson’s elimination when she fell on cross-country yesterday, Canada no longer had a drop score. Individually, Ruy Fonseca (BRA) was in the lead followed by Marilyn Little (USA) and Jessica Phoenix (CAN).
While 43 horses started the competition, 32 made it to the show jumping phase. There were 16 double clear rounds, and handful of rails and only five horses had time penalties.
The first Canadian on course was Waylon Roberts riding Bill Owen. They knocked the last rail on course down, giving Brazil a little extra breathing room. The first U.S. competitor in the ring was Phillip Dutton on Fernhill Fugitive, who had an unlucky rail down at the second fence on course.
Three Brazilians: Carlos Parra and Landline ,Jorge Marcio Carvalho and Luissy Ma Wayer, and Henrique Plombon and Land Quenotte all jumped double clear, putting the pressure on the US Team.
Both Colleen Loach and Jessica Phoenix rode clear for Canada, to uproarious applause from the hometown, red white and Maple leaf-decked crowd.
Americans Lauren Kieffer riding Meadowbrooks Scarlett and Boyd Martin riding Pancho Villa both jumped around clear and in the time, and then Marilyn Little, who was second individually going into the final phase of the competition, was clean and fast aboard RF Scandalous.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats as Fonseca started his round, and a huge storm cloud rolled in, bringing thunder and giant drops of rain, setting the stage for a dramatic finish. The crowd was just ready to start cheering his victory when the final rail fell and the crowd let out a collective gasp, then grabbed their belongings and rushed for cover as the sky opened up.
Ultimately Marilyn Little took home individual gold, Jessica Phoenix claimed individual silver and Ruy Fonseca took bronze.
Canadians fans were clearly thrilled with their riders. Jessica said, “Individually for Pavarotti to go in and have the round that he had, in front of our hometown crowd, is amazing. Walking away with any medals is awesome.”
Roberts added, “It’s a wonderful feeling to have such support from the hometown crowd and I think we’ve done Canada proud today.”
Martin said, “Whenever you get picked for an American team you have to come up with your personal best. I think America’s been in the dark a little bit the last couple of outings and I was proud to be a part of a winning team.”
U.S. team veteran Dutton said, “It’s a great group and obviously David has pulled together a great support crew. There are a lot of good horses and riders still at home, too. It’s an exciting time for the sport. It’s fair to say we are a little bit behind the Europeans but it’s also fair to say we’re catching up and hopefully it’s going to be a good cycle for American eventing in the future.”
Two of the U.S. team horses are products of the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program, with Meadowbrook’s Scarlett graduating the YEH program in 2012, and Pancho Villa completing in 2007. The Pachno Villa Syndicate’s Pancho Villa is a 2003 Selle Francais gelding by Icarus De Carolina, out of S.S. Sassy (TB) and he competed in the YEH program with Mike Huber when he was owned by Michelle Taylor. Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, a 2007 TB/Holsteiner mare was competed by Lauren Kieffer in the YEH program as a five-year-old. Owned by Marie Le Menestrel and bred by Meadowbrook Farm, the mare is by All in Black (Holsteiner/Hanoverian) and out of Bliss (Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred).
Final Team Scores:
Gold: USA 133.0
Silver: Brazil: 140.7
Bronze: Canada: 163.0
Gold – RF Scandalous (Marilyn Little) USA 40.30
Silver – Pavarotti (Jessica Phoenix) CAN 42.10
Bronze – Tom Bombadill Too (Ruy Fonseca) BRA 42.90
By kind permission of United States Eventing Association