Team USA Dominates Pan American Games to Claim A Fedex Gold After U.S. team members Cesar Parra on Grandioso and Marisa Festerling on Big Tyme scored 69.526 and 72.026 someone made the comment, “They could have let the Americans save money and just fedexed them the Gold.” In fact, Parra and Festerling would be joined late in the day by Heather Blitz (who rode Paragon to a 75.105) and Steffen Peters, who dominated the field with the highest score of the day (80.132) on Weltino’s Magic to claim that Gold Medal ahead of Canada (Silver) and Columbia (Bronze) at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, MX. Our team was so strong from the start that their victory was well deserved and was indicative of the changing tide of the Pan Am Games. The final placings came from one of the best Pan American Games ever.
The quality of both the horses and riders had surpassed all previous Pan American Games. In the press conference, the judges and riders affirmed this, especially Canadian Tom Dvorak who had competed four years earlier at the Sao Paolo Games in Brazil. Tom was in awe of how much both the horses and riders had improved in just four years. Perhaps that has to do with the improvement of the horses and riders, or maybe it’s because some of the countries were sending stronger teams. Steffen was pleased with the raised level noting, “It feels great to bring the standard this high to a Pan American Games. I think the scores of the three teams medaling today speak for themselves.” Columbia was especially proud of their Bronze Medal and tuned in on the same note as the others. “We are extremely happy. It is the first time we had such a high level of riders,” commented their Chef d’Equipe. A variety of questions were asked and answered including the judging and scoring which Heather Blitz felt was “really spot on throughout the whole class. There was a lot of competition, especially in the second half. I don’t envy the judges.”
For the Canadians their enthusiasm was not just because of their Silver Medal but because they needed that medal to qualify for the Olympics. What was extra special about this press conference was that the judges were also there and answered questions. Lilo Fore, the President of the Ground Jury, took on the challenge of responding to the question of how do you judge 47 horses starting at 8:30 and ending at around 6:00 and ensure you are judging every horse with the same eye. Lilo explained that it’s important to the judges that they keep their eye as sharp as possible from the first horse to the last. “I believe our judge’s team did a great job and we also had a good quality of horses and riders. I don’t think I’ve seen this quality in a long time.” The other judges included French judge Raphael Saleh, Argentinian Gabriel Armando, British judge Stephen Clarke and Canadian Cara Whitham.
This was Whitham’s second Pan Am Games and she too mimicked the others noting, “This is the best level of riders and horses ever” for a Pan Am Games. The question was asked as to whether they should consider having the riders move from the Prix St Georges to the Grand Prix Level tests in the future. Both the judges and riders seemed to feel that would be a mistake and would end up eliminating too many of the countries who could not rise to that challenge.
Dvorak said what many others echoed in that the jump from Prix St. Georges to Grand Prix is significant. “I’d like to keep it here because it is such a difficult jump.” Heather piped in noting that her eight-year-old benefited from this opportunity because it was at the lower level. Had it been at Grand Prix, Paragon would have not been able to have this experience. “Without this I think I would be much less prepared to try out for the (Olympic) Team next year.”
It was Lilo who summed it up when she commented, “I think the Pan Am Games gives the riders and horses a chance to get a little more experience and an opportunity to show their quality. Plus it gives many more countries a chance to show off their level. I think the Pan American Games is a wonderful chance for up and coming riders and horses to go to get experience.”
Gold: USA – average score 75.754%
Steffen Peters/Weltino’s Magic – 80.132%
Heather Blitz/Paragon – 75.105%
Marisa Festerling/Big Tyme – 72.026%
Cesar Parra/Grandioso – 69.526% (drop score)
Silver: Canada – average score 70.413%
Tom Dvorak/Viva’s Salieri – 71.711%
Tina Irwin/Winston – 70.737%
Crystal Kroetch/Lymrix – 68.790%
Roberta Byng-Morris/Reiki Tyme – 65.184% (drop score)
Bronze: Colombia – average score 69.614%
Constanza Jaramillo/Wakana – 72.158%
Marco Bernal/Farewell – 70.237%
Maria Ines Garcia/Beckam – 66.447%
Juan Mauricio Sanchez/First Fisherman – 65.500% (drop score)