With definite entries now confirmed, 44 horse-and-rider combinations from 16 nations will start in the dressage competitions at the Pan-American Games 2015 in Toronto, Canada, which get under way on Saturday.
Held this time at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Toronto, the Pan-American Games are the world’s largest multi-sport event apart from the summer Olympic Games, and take place on a four-year cycle leading up to each summer Olympics. The Pan-Ams provide Olympic qualification opportunities for athletes in FEI geographical regions D and E – North America and Central/South America.
About 6135 athletes from 41 nations will compete in 36 sports at this 17th edition of the event which runs from 10 to 26 July. And a record 45% of competitors are expected to be female, the most ever for any multi-sport event. The Games will also be the largest multi-sport event ever held in Canada, with double the number of athletes that competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The equestrian programme also includes Jumping and Eventing. The deadline for definite entries for these two disciplines is Monday, July 13.
Single qualifying spot
Ten nations – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, USA and Venezuela – will take part in the Dressage Team competition, but only four will be eligible for the single qualifying spot on offer for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. With teams made up of a combination of Big Tour and Small Tour pairs, only Argentina, Canada, Mexico and the USA can make the cut directly, as they are armed with the required Grand Prix-level partnerships.
But, apart from the single team spot up for grabs, countries can also qualify if three strong individual performances provide them with the option of creating a “composite” team.
The US record at the Pan-Americans has long been outstanding, and at the last edition staged in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011 they returned a record-breaking fourth consecutive team victory and filled all three steps of the individual Dressage medal podium as well.
They cruised confidently into pole position in the team event ahead of the silver medallists from Canada, while Colombia claimed the bronze. And Steffen Peters set a new Pan-American Games record when posting a mark of 80.132 with Weltino’s Magic in the team competition before claiming individual gold ahead of Heather Blitz with Paragon in silver and Marisa Festerling and Big Tyme in bronze. It was a thoroughly convincing performance at all levels, and anchorman Peters was the linchpin of the US side.
He will fill that role once again this time around, partnering Legolas, the horse who gave the home fans so much to cheer about when the pair finished third in the Grand Prix at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage 2015 Final in Las Vegas, USA in April.
US hot favourites
The 2011 result brought the US tally to seven team and eight individual Dressage Pan-American titles, and there is little doubt that they are the ones to beat. Peters will be joined by Laura Graves (Verdades), Kimberly Herslow (Rosmarin) and Sabine Schut-Kery (Sanceo) in the bid to further improve the already-impressive US strike-rate.
Canada sends out Brittany Fraser (All In), Megan Lane (Caravella), Beldina Trussell (Anton) and Chris Von Martels (Zilverstar), while Argentina will be represented by Cesar Lopardo Grana (Tyara), Micaela Mabragana (Granada), Maria Florencia Manfredi (Bandurria Kacero) and Maria Juliana Ugalde (Caquel Cautivo). The Mexican side consists of Jose Luis Padilla Moreno (Donnersberg), Jesus Enrique Palacios (Wizard Banamex), Bernadette Pujals (Heslegaards Rolex) and Mariana Quintana Rivero (Guapo).
Meanwhile the Brazilian team includes Joao Victor Marcari Oliva whose mother, Hortencia Marcari, is a sporting icon in her home country and Vice-President of the Brazilian Olympic Athletes Commission. The Basketball legend was a member of Brazil’s winning team at the 1994 FIBA World Championship before going on to clinch Olympic silver two years later in Atlanta, USA, so her son is following in a strong sporting tradition.
Individuals from Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Uruguay will also be taking to the stage as Dressage gets the 2015 equestrian events under way at 9am local time on Saturday morning.
“We are thrilled with the development of Dressage in the Americas,” FEI Director Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage Trond Asmyr said.
“For the first time at the Pan-American Games some of the riders will compete at the same level as in the Olympic Games. This also makes the qualifications for the Olympics more in line with the rest of the world.”