Canada’s Jessica Phoenix had the privilege – and the added pressure – of being the first to step into the dressage arena at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro. Riding A Little Romance, the 11-year-old Canadian Sport Horse mare owned by Donald Leschied, the pair had a steady test that earned 52pp.

“What an honour to open the 2016 Rio Olympics, and I was really, really happy with A Little Romance,” said Phoenix after their ride. “It was her personal best and I don’t think I could have asked for anything more. I am extremely proud of what she did in that ring today. She relaxed, she enjoyed every minute of it, and it was just a lot of fun.”

This is Phoenix’s second career Olympic appearance, having finished 22nd individually at the 2012 London Olympic Games with Pavarotti.

Looking ahead to Monday’s cross-country test, Phoenix remarked, “The cross-country course looks amazing. It’s very technical, it’s long. There is a lot to do out there. I think bringing A Little Romance turned out to be great, because the course if very well suited to her. She’s a little nippy and it’s like driving a little Ferrari, which I think will come in very handy.”

The 32-year-old Cannington, ON, native has walked the course twice so far, and noted, “It’s extremely technical. It’s not like a 4* in height, but definitely a 4* in technicality. I think it’s going to be well suited to A Little Romance.”

When asked about whether the unrest leading up to these Games affected team spirit and camaraderie during training camp in Ocala, FL, or here in Rio, she said, “I can tell you that we are an extremely close-knit group of people. The girls that we are riding with here are second to none and they are some of my closest friends. I’m extremely thankful to have the group of people here.”