Canadian Eventing Team members Colleen Loach of Dunham, QC, defending Pan Am champion Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON, Waylon Roberts of Port Perry, ON, and Kathryn Robinson of Kettering, GBR, are ready for action as eventing competition gets underway at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games on Friday, July 17.
All four athletes presented their mounts at the horse inspection held Thursday afternoon, July 16. Team alternate Selena O’Hanlon, 34, of Kingston, ON, also presented her mount, Foxwood High, a 12-year-old bay Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Rio Bronco W and owned by John and Judy Rumble, in the event that she is called upon. All of the Canadian Eventing Team horses were accepted.
In her major games debut, Loach, 32, will ride Qorry Blue d’Argouges, an 11-year-old grey selle francais gelding sired by Mr. Blue and owned by Peter Barry.
As the individual gold medalist at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, MEX, Phoenix returns to defend her title riding Pavarotti. Owned by Don J. Good, the 13-year-old bay Westphalian gelding (Pavarotti van de Helle x Foxiland) was also Phoenix’s mount four years ago, claiming individual gold and leading Canada to the team silver.
“The main goal is to win a team gold medal and, absolutely, if we can defend that individual gold, I would be ready for it!” said Phoenix, 31. “The team members that we have with us on this trip are phenomenal riders on excellent horses. I hope our whole team has their best performances.”
Despite her relatively young age, Phoenix is a veteran of Olympic, World Equestrian, and Pan American Games competition.
“I have never been so proud to call myself a Canadian,” expressed Phoenix. “From the athlete village in downtown Toronto to the opening ceremonies to the competition grounds at Caledon to the cross-country course, everything is absolutely top-notch. It’s by far the best Pan Am Games that I have ever been to as far as venue and how they are treating the horses and the athletes. I am extremely proud to be Canadian!”
Roberts, 26, is also a veteran of Pan American Games competition, having won a team silver medal at the age of 18 as part of the Canadian effort in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, BRA. He will ride Bill Owen, an 11-year-old bay Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Money Talks that he owns together with his mother, 1984 Canadian Olympian Kelly Plitz.
Robinson, 29, will be making her major games debut riding Let It Bee, her 14-year-old dark bay German-bred gelding. Based in Kettering, Northamptonshire in England, Robinson and Let It Bee are looking to have a successful outing in their first international event in North America.
“The goal always is to win gold, so that’s what I’m hoping to see,” said Canadian Eventing Team chef d’equipe Clayton Fredericks, a two-time Olympian (2008 and 2012) for Australia. “We’ve got a very interesting team. Being the nation here that is already qualified for the Olympic Games, in some ways, gave us a little bit of breathing space to choose a team that will allow us to not only win a gold medal, but also bed some fresh riders and fresh horses in for our preparation for the Olympics.
“I’m expecting that they all perform to their best and give it their all,” continued Fredericks. “That’s all a coach can ask for.”
Equestrian competition is being held at the OLG Caledon Equestrian Park in Caledon, ON, with the cross-country portion of eventing held at the nearby Pan Am Cross-Country Center at Will O’Wind Farm in Mono, ON. Held over three consecutive days, July 17, 18 and 19, athletes will compete in the three phases of dressage, cross-country and show jumping. Both team and individual medals will be awarded at the conclusion of competition on Sunday, July 19.
Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela are all fielding teams at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games. While one qualifying spot for the 2016 Olympic Games is available, the Canadian Eventing Team has already qualified for Rio based on its performance at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. As the host nation, Brazil is also guaranteed a starting spot.