Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON, won the individual silver medal and the Canadian Eventing Team took the bronze in eventing competition held Sunday, July 19, at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Caledon, ON.
The third and final phase of eventing competition saw the Canadian Eventing Team, comprised of Colleen Loach of Dunham, QC, Phoenix, Waylon Roberts of Port Perry, ON, and Kathryn Robinson of Kettering, GBR, maintain its overnight position to claim the team bronze medal. The United States won the team gold with a total score of 133.00, Brazil took the silver with 140.70, and Canada bronze with 163.00.
Phoenix, who was sitting in third position individually coming into the final phase of competition, produced a clear show jumping round with Pavarotti to put the pressure on the two riders ahead of her. Marilyn Little of the United States produced a clear round with RF Scandalous, but when a rail fell at the final fence for leader Ruy Fonseca of Brazil riding Tom Bombadill Too, it catapulted Little to the individual gold with a final score of 40.30 while Phoenix, the defending Pan Am champion with Pavarotti, moved up to claim the individual silver with a final score of 42.10. Fonseca took the individual bronze with a final score of 42.90.
“I felt extremely thankful to be sitting on Pavarotti today,” said Phoenix of the 13-year-old bay Westphalian gelding (Pavarotti van de Helle x Foxiland) owned by Don J. Good of New Hamburg, ON. “He was absolutely amazing and I just loved every single moment!”
At 31 years of age, Phoenix has traveled the globe as a veteran of Olympic, World Equestrian, and Pan American Games competition, and the opportunity to compete on home soil was one that she relished.
“It was so awesome to be able to do that in front of the home crowd,” said Phoenix. “To be able to do this in our backyard, with all of our family and friends around, and to have all of the Canadians cheering has just been amazing! It was one of the most amazing feelings in my life.
“I am so thankful to be here with our teammates, our coaches and our support staff that is here with us,” continued Phoenix. “My groom, Sandra Andresen, did an amazing job with Pavarotti this whole weekend. We’ve had such a good, strong team. I will certainly take away a lot of memories from this experience.”
Loach also delivered a clear show jumping round for Canada riding Qorry Blue d’Argouges, an 11-year-old grey selle francais gelding sired by Mr. Blue. In her major games debut, Loach added nothing to her dressage score of 51.80 from the opening phase of competition to finish in eighth place individually.
“My horse was amazing, he tried his heart out for me,” said Loach, 32, of the horse owned by 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games competitor, Peter Barry. “He is super generous, and a very careful jumper. I’m a lucky girl to ride him.”
Of winning a medal in her first major games appearance, Loach said, “It means a lot. It’s a dream come true. The team is great, we get along really well, and it’s been a super atmosphere. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
As the youngest member of the team, Roberts moved up from 34th position following dressage to 17th with a clear performance over Saturday’s cross-country phase. On Sunday, Roberts made it all the way to the end of the course before dropping a rail at the final fence with Bill Owen, an 11-year-old bay Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Money Talks and owned in partnership with Kelly Plitz. With a final score of 69.10, Roberts finished 17th individually in his second Pan American Games appearance.
“To be able to come home for the Pan American Games and represent Canada on the team has been wonderful,” said Roberts, 26. “I’ve been coming to the Caledon Equestrian Park for 15 years, and it’s great to see all the familiar faces and everybody rooting for the Canadians.”
As the Canadian Show Jumping Team had moved on-site to the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park on Saturday, ten-time Olympian Ian Millar offered to walk the show jumping course with the Canadian eventing athletes prior to the start of Sunday’s show jumping competition.
“We had the fortunate opportunity to walk the course with Ian Millar this morning, and it rode just the way he said it would,” said Roberts, who represented Canada in the 2002 FEI Children’s Final for Show Jumping.
Given his background in jumping, Roberts has been a frequent visitor to the Park over the years, and was impressed by its expansive renovation for the Pan Am Games, saying, “It is going to leave a really great legacy here in Caledon and it’s going to bring a lot more young people into the sport. With the indoor arena, we are going to be able to have horse shows all year round!”
The fourth member of the Canadian Eventing Team, Robinson, 29, was eliminated during Saturday’s cross-country competition and therefore not eligible to compete in the final phase of show jumping with Let It Bee, her 14-year-old dark bay German-bred gelding. As the three best scores from the four-member team are counted towards the final score, Robinson’s teammates rallied to claim the bronze medal.
A total of 11 nations contested the team medals. By winning the gold, the United States also earned its berth to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. As the host nation, Brazil is pre-qualified, while Canada secured its Olympic starting spot through its performance at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
The Canadian Eventing Team was supported at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games by Technical Advisor and chef d’equipe Clayton Fredericks, Team Manager Fleur Tipton, Team Veterinarian Dr. Christiana Ober, Stable Manager Max Corcoran, Team Farrier Andy Vergut and Therapist Usha Knabe.
Show jumping competition is next up on the equestrian schedule at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games, taking place July 21, 23, and 25 at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park.