Steffen Peters and Laura Graves prevailed over an incredibly strong field in one of the closest contests in Pan Am Games dressage history. Gold and silver for Peters and Graves respectively, and bronze for Canada’s Chris von Martels and Zilverstar. The scores were unbelievably close, with just over half a point separating the three medalists.
It’s been a historic day, with small and big tour combinations competing on a level playing field against one another for medals for the first time at a major Games. I spoke with Robert Dover following the press conference, and he said he believed this live experiment worked. He sees it as a stepping stone to the Pan Am Games becoming entirely at the Grand Prix level in the not-too-distant future.
The freestyles got off to a rather inauspicious start after there was both controversy and confusion over the question of whether all four athletes from Canada and the U.S. would advance to today’s competition. On Sunday night, two draws were made for the starting order, with the top half of the small tour division (17 combinations), and the top four from the big tour. The draw included U.S. team member Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo, as well as Canada’s Megan Lane and Caravella. Over the next day, protests, chef d’equipe meetings, consultation with the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) and the FEI took place. It was finally determined that, according to PASO, only three athletes per nation may advance to the individual medal final.
Schut-Kery and Lane had to face the disappointment of being removed from the final, but the organizing committee made a wonderful gesture by inviting her and Lane to be test riders at the start of the Intermediate I and Grand Prix freestyles. Schut-Kery and Sanceo performed a beautiful Intermediate I freestyle, enjoying a final appearance in front of what was by far the biggest crowd of the dressage competition.
Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin had a couple of costly mistakes in the canter work in their freestyle (score 73.175 percent and eighth place), but the pair’s outstanding performances through the championship were a clear indicator that they were top contenders who played a central role in helping the U.S. earn gold and that all-important Olympic qualification.
Peters was the third-to-last rider in the ring, and from the very first passage tour, punctuated by the spoken vocal ‘Hi! I’m Legolas,’ it was clear that both horse and rider had put the mistakes of Sunday’s Grand Prix Special test far behind them. The freestyle wasn’t absolutely flawless, but it was much more to the level that Peters and Legolas 92 have come to be known for. Their score of 80.75 percent put them just ahead of Canada’s von Martels and Zilverstar, who had been in the lead on 79.5 percent for their Intermediate freestyle.
Laura Graves and Verdades were the final competitors. Their ride, which featured the same Rondo Veneziano music they have been using this year, got stronger as it went along, and the final centerline was a real highlight, making up for a bit of tension that dissipated after the first couple of minutes. They received 79.825 percent, which slipped Graves just a third of a point in front of von Martels. She was even closer to Peters’ winning score.
The U.S. team will be packing up and heading for home first thing tomorrow morning. The eventing teams are now at the venue, the U.S. Eventing Team horses having arrived yesterday.
Without a doubt, this has been one of the most exciting and high scoring Pan Am Games dressage competitions in history – very likely setting records across the board.
I will be posting one more time tomorrow, with some reflections on the fantastic experience that has been the 2015 Pan American Games Dressage competition.
Link to individual results: http://results.toronto2015.org/IRS/en/equestrian/results-dressage-individual-6-00.htm