As I said in my post yesterday, the contest between the U.S. and Canada was much closer than anticipated, which made for particularly exciting sport yesterday at the Pan Am Games. But there was an even closer battle being fought for bronze, between Brazil and Mexico. With Bernadette Pujals competing at the Grand Prix level with Rolex, the Mexicans had a 1.5 percent bonus (for each test Pujals rode) to add to their team total. Pujals was the last rider to compete for Mexico. The Brazilian team, avoiding the blistering sun beating down on the uncovered riders’ tribune, were all gathered under the roof at the edge of the media tribune when Pujals’ score came up, revealing that Brazil had won the bronze medal by just 2.4 points over Mexico. Needless to say, the Brazilians went berserk!
It was a disappointment for the Mexicans, but there was a consolation prize: Pujals was successful in securing an individual rider spot in Rio for her country. And for Brazil, the hosts of next year’s Olympics, they gained the confidence that they are marching steadily toward becoming a ‘dressage nation.’
There were a total of four countries that fielded teams that included at least one Grand Prix level combination in the team competition. The hope is that this new combined format will nurture the developing nations of Latin America and bring the standard of the Pan Am Games dressage toward becoming a Grand Prix championship. Until that happens, the Pan Ams will continue to be considered a poor cousin of the European Dressage Championships.
As for the format of this new combined level Pan Am dressage competition, we’ve already learned a few important things. The first is that the 1.5 percent bonus for Grand Prix had no influence on the medals. Without the bonus, the U.S. still had Canada beaten for gold, and Brazil beat Mexico with no Grand Prix horses and no bonus. However, I think it’s pretty much unanimously agreed that the combined levels is the right balance of pushing toward Grand Prix, while not making it impossible for all of Central and South America to participate. Personally, I enjoyed having the Grand Prix tests to watch in addition to the small tour horses, some of which demonstrated that they are destined to be tomorrow’s Grand Prix stars.
As of this minute, there is a protest from the Venezuelan dressage team regarding the number of combinations from each country that will advance to tomorrow’s freestyle. Historically at the Pan Am Games, the formula has been the same as at the Olympics and WEG: only three per nation. The current FEI rules state that if all four athletes from a country are qualified, they may all compete in the freestyle at a regional championship/games. If the Venezuelans are successful, only three Americans will advance to the individual final tomorrow: Kimberly Herslow with Rosmarin, Laura Graves with Verdades and Steffen Peters with Legolas 92.
I’ll be back again tomorrow following the freestyles, which I am expecting to be the most closely contested medal final in recent Pan Am Games dressage history.
Link to team results: http://results.toronto2015.org/IRS/en/equestrian/daily-schedule-date=2015-07-12.htm