Lima, Peru – July 29, 2019 – Canada came out on top in a tight battle with the USA when the Team Dressage medals were decided at the Pan American Games 2019 taking place in Lima, Peru. The three-member US side had a fractional advantage after the opening day of competition, but consistently strong performances from the Canadian crew on the final day of team competition saw the defending champions having to settle for silver, while Brazil stood on the third step of the medal podium.This was Canada’s third time to take the team title in the 68-year history of equestrian sport at the Pan Americans, their first victory posted in Cali, Colombia in 1971 and their second in Havana, Cuba in 1991.
The Pan Am format sees team members compete at both Small Tour and Big Tour level, and Team USA, already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following their silver-medal-winning performance at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon, sent an all-Small-Tour team of just three horse-and-rider combinations. Canada fielded two Small Tour and two Big Tour partnerships, and when Lindsay Kellock (Floratina), Tina Irwin (Laurencio) and Naima Moreira Laliberté (Statesman) all posted scores of 73 percent, their final tally of 440.111 left them 2.32 points ahead of USA in silver and over 31 points clear of the Brazilians in bronze. Fourth team member Jill Irving (Degas 12) provided Canada’s discard score when the top three results for each team were counted.
Canada’s star performer was 22-year-old Moreira Laliberté, daughter of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, who won both yesterday’s Grand Prix and today’s Grand Prix Special with her 12-year-old Sandro Hit gelding, Statesman. “This is my first year of Grand Prix, my sixth competition at this level and my first major Games” said the talented rider. Irving is also a Big Tour contender, and the 56-year-old steered her WEG 2018 ride, the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding Degas 12, into third behind her team-mate.
“The whole team gave it our all today,” Irwin said. “Yesterday it was close behind the Americans, and today we were on our “A” game!”
In the Small Tour Intermediate 1 today, Irwin and Kellock finished second and third. This is Irwin’s second Pan Am Games, having helped her country to team silver in Guadalajara (MEX) in 2011. The 38-year-old rider and her 12-year-old gelding Laurencio are Small Tour stars, setting a world record at that level in 2017 before moving up to Big Tour. However they moved back down to Small Tour this year with the specific goal of helping Canada earn their spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and it has worked a treat.
“These girls rode their heart out for Canada and I’m very proud,” said Canadian Dressage Team Chef d’Équipe, Christine Peters. “What impressed me the most about this group is how they came together as a team and supported each other; the four of them have been like sisters. To have them bring home team gold for Canada for the first time in so many years is incredible.”
Kellock and her 11-year-old Hanoverian, Floratina, are a relatively new combination who clicked from the moment they came together. The mare was bought as a schoolmaster for a friend who couldn’t find the time to ride her as much as she would like, so loaned her to Kellock who got a really high score with her on their first outing and they have blossomed from there. “The next goal in our minds is Tokyo, we all three have horses that are aimed at that!” said the ambitious 29-year-old.
Irwin and Kellock finished second and third on the Individual leaderboard ahead of Wednesday’s Individual Final in which the top 50% in the rankings from both the Big and Small Tour competitions will battle it out in the Grand Prix Freestyle and Intermediate 1 Freestyle for the Individual Pan American Dressage title, and in which everyone starts from scratch.
Team USA’s Sarah Lockman topped the individual leaderboard with her lovely 9-year-old Dutch-bred stallion, First Apple, who won both the Prix St Georges with a 76.088% and the Intermediate 1 with a 75.912%. After accepting her team silver medal alongside compatriots Nora Batchelder on Faro SQF and Jennifer Baumert on Handsome, Lockman said her Pan Am experience so far has given her “a feeling like no other!
“It’s my first time to represent the US and it’s such a different feeling for us, as sport is for the most part an individual sport. This (the team competition) has brought a different element and I love it, it’s amazing seeing our flag raised, it’s definitely a rush and something I will never forget!” she added proudly.
U.S. Chef d’Equipe Debbie McDonald was ecstatic with the team’s overall performance in the pressurized environment of the Pan American Games. The U.S. Dressage Team has consistently performed well at these championships, which has offered a platform for combinations to test their skills and composure in a team-focused setting.
“I’m really proud of the team and their performances over the last two days,” McDonald said. “There is a lot to look forward to when you look at the direction of this program and I believe the future is very bright. The more international and championship exposure we can give our athletes, the better we become as a team. Overall, I think everyone handled the environment to the best of their ability, and they have each benefitted so greatly as a group and individually from this experience.”
The bronze-medal-winning Brazilian team consisting of Joao Paulo Dos Santos (Carthago Comando SN), Joao Victor Marcari Oliva (Biso das Lezirias), Leandro Aparecide Da Silva (Dicaprio) and Pedro Manuel Tavares de Almeida (Aoleo) also have every reason to be pleased as they, like the winning Canadians, are now Tokyo-bound.
“We are very happy with this qualification,” Oliva said. “We came here for this, we trained for this, so thank you to my team mates and to everybody who is behind us. Now we have to celebrate!”
Check out the full results here!