Not that I would ever have bet against it happening, but it was very exciting all the same to watch the U.S. win gold today in Toronto. It was a particularly important gold medal, since it also gives the U.S. that critically important single team spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The primary reason the competition was so exciting was because it turned out to be a much more evenly matched battle with Canada than anyone had predicted. The Canadian team really pulled out all the stops, nearly every one of them achieving personal bests today in the Intermediate I and Grand Prix Special.
As brilliant as the Canadians were in front of a home crowd, the U.S. team enjoyed some best ever results of its own. Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo were on their A game today, with a more confident performance that had some real highlights. Their score of 73.553 percent was almost two points better than yesterday. Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin absolutely knocked the ball out of the park. Rosmarin was like clockwork, and her power shone through from start to finish. Herslow shot to the top of the leaderboard with 77.158 percent, and stayed there until teammate Laura Graves earned the highest score of the day, 77.177 percent.
Verdades was much more expressive today than yesterday. There were a couple of bobbles, such as in the canter-trot transition at M, but the risks Graves took by going for broke paid off. The passage was more closed up than yesterday, with more cadence. The judges clearly liked what they saw, and Graves improved on her score by two points compared to yesterday’s Grand Prix.
The shock of the day was the ride of team anchor Steffen Peters on Legolas 92. Early in the test, Legolas broke into canter at the start of a transition to extended trot from passage. The test went on to have an uncharacteristic number of mistakes, including in the tempi changes. In the press conference after the medal ceremony, Peters said that he could feel tightness in his horse’s back when he broke in the extended trot, and knew that would come back to cause trouble in the flying changes. 72.667 percent leaves Steffen in fifth place overall in the rankings going into the freestyle on Tuesday.
Herslow and Graves are ranked first and second individually, with Peters fifth and Schut-Kery seventh. Unlike at the Olympics, where only three athletes per nation can proceed to the individual final, all four Americans will compete on Tuesday in the freestyle. The freestyle is a stand-alone competition, starting on a clean slate. Competition will get under way at 11 am EDT on Tuesday, and the individual medals will be handed out at approximately 4:30 pm. It will be a historic competition, with medals being awarded for a mixed division of Intermediate I and Grand Prix freestyles.
For fans of dressage who could not make it to the Pan Am Games, there has been a disappointing absence of any TV or live stream coverage. Today there were more spectators in the stadium, but it was not more than half full, in spite of the fact that the TO2015 ticketing site declared today’s competition sold out.
Link to today’s results: http://results.toronto2015.org/IRS/en/equestrian/daily-schedule-date=2015-07-12.htm