USA and Brazil booked their tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics when taking gold and silver respectively in eventing at the Pan American Games 2019 which is taking place at the Army Equitation School at La Molina in Lima, Peru.
America’s Boyd Martin riding Tsetserleg and Lynn Symansky partnering RF Cool Play claimed individual gold and silver when finishing on their dressage marks, while Brazil’s Carlos Parro added just 6.8 cross-country time penalties to his first-phase scoreline with Qualkin Qurious to bag the bronze. But none of these medals were easily won.
The Americans snatched the lead in the opening dressage phase when Tamra Smith and Mai Baum topped the leaderboard ahead of Martin in second, Doug Payne and Starr Witness in seventh and Symansky in ninth. But they were only 4.9 penalty points ahead of Canada’s Karl Slezak (Fernhill Wishes), Dana Cooke (Mississippi), Colleen Loach (Fe Golden Eye) and Jessica Phoenix (Pavarotti), while Carlos Parro and his Brazilian team-mates Ruy Fonseca (Ballypatrick SRS), Rafael Mamprin Losano (Fuiloda G), Marcelo Tosi (Starbucks) were less than four penalty points further adrift.
Brazil’s chances were shaken by a nasty fall for Fonseca in Saturday’s cross-country test however. From a start-list of 42 horse-and-rider combinations from 12 nations, only 25 finished the difficult course designed by Argentina’s Jose Ortelli. But despite the loss of their most experienced team-member, the Brazilians dug deep to produce brilliant performances and move up to silver medal spot ahead of the Canadians going into today’s final jumping phase.
Talking about his dramatic fall at the seventh fence, the Lake Titicaca combination, Fonseca said from his hospital bed yesterday, “we were just unlucky, I’ve fractured my left shoulder and a couple of ribs. The horse is ok and I’m ok, everything is fine. All the medical team, the organisers and the Brazilian Olympic Committee doctor did a really great job. The (Brazilian) team did a really great job and I wish I could be with them tomorrow!”
And they did him proud, anchoring their final score on 122.1 to take the silver today while the Canadians, also reduced to a three-member side in the final jumping test after the withdrawal of Dana Cooke’s Mississippi who scraped an elbow on a fence yesterday, completed on 183.7 for the bronze.
The Americans were the clear winners on a score of 91.2. Despite a big score for Smith who plummeted down the leaderboard after a glance-off at fence 16 and an additional 20 penalties for crossing their own track at fence 23, the US went into the final day with a commanding lead after Martin and Symansky produced the only two double-clear cross-country rounds and Payne added just 8.4 time faults to his tally. And when all three stayed clean and clear today (Sunday), the gold was in the bag. But no-one was saying it was easy, it was quite the opposite.
This was America’s 10th victory in eventing at the Pan Ams, the first posted in Sao Paolo (BRA) back in 1963. “It was much harder than I expected” said 39-year-old double-Olympian Martin. “We came here and we were under the gun a bit, but we all stepped up and tried our hardest and like Eric (Duvander, team coach) said we’ve got good horses, great riders, the best coach in the world, great farriers, brilliant vets….there was no stone left unturned. Now we have to keep up the momentum, using every day we’ve got until Tokyo to keep improving… and then we’ll find out on the day, because competition is competition!”
Symansky described the result as “redemption, especially from last year at WEG when we came just a little bit short of taking our Tokyo qualification. Boyd and I were both there, and we’re much happier with our performances here this weekend”, said the 36-year-old who was also a team gold medallist at the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara (MEX).
Despite the disappointment of not bringing home one of the coveted Olympic qualifying spots, Canada’s Jessica Phoenix expressed her delight with the last week of sport. “I think Peru put on an incredible competition - the hospitality was insane! This is an incredible country and they made us feel so welcome. The venue is beautiful and it was a super, super Pan Am Games,” she said.
The door is not completely closed to Canadian qualification, but for now it’s the USA and Brazil who will join the host nation of Japan, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, China and Thailand in Eventing at Tokyo in 12 months time.
The Brazilians are not quite ready to celebrate their success just yet, because Ruy Fonseca is still in hospital - “we’re waiting for him to get out to come drinking with us!” said Carlos Parro today.
And America’s Boyd Martin described the outcome of these Pan Ams as “a relief, for coach Eric who moved country to help us, relief for the owners, the grooms that work so hard, the wives that put up with us, just the whole thing. It’s so much work - we get to wear the fancy medal, but really it’s a massive effort from a lot of people”, he pointed out with gratitude.
Source: FEI Communications press release