Caledon, Ont. - The final medals in equestrian competition at the 2015 Pan American Games were decided in thrilling fashion this afternoon at the Caledon Equestrian Park. Both Individual Jumping Gold and Bronze were decided by jump-offs after two rounds of intense competition over the big and impressive Michel Vaillancourt-designed tracks. McLain Ward jumped three clear rounds, including in the jump-off against Venezuela's Andres Rodriguez to win Individual Gold. Lauren Hough captured Individual Bronze as the only clear round in the field of five in the jump-off for Bronze.
Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Sagamore Farms' Rothchild looked determined from the start, putting in one of only three clear rounds in Round A and one of only two clear rounds in Round B. Going first in the jump-off for Gold, Rodriguez had a rail down at 4B meaning that Ward needed to go clear inside the time allowed to secure Gold - he did just that. This is the first Individual medal for Ward, who has earned multiple Team medals at Olympic, Pan American, and World Equestrian Games.
"I waited a long time [for this medal]. I have had great team experiences and this is certainly something I have dreamed about and worked towards," said Ward. Rothchild was purchased by Ward's late father, Barney Ward, and has proved a terrific partner for Ward. The pair was part of the Team Bronze effort at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and the Team Bronze effort here at the Pan American Games earlier in the week.
"It is a very special thing. I rode this horse last year at the [World Equestrian Games] and he is the last horse that I am riding that my father picked out. A bit like my father, [Rothchild] defies the odds. He doesn't really look or go like he should be a show jumper, and yet he's won a couple million dollars, a couple big Grand Prix, and now at the Pan American Games. He's a really competitive horse, his heart is as big as they come, and he gives you everything he has."
Hough (Wellington, Fla.) and The Ohlala Group's Ohlala had the first element of the double-combination down in Round A, a fence that proved troubling for many combinations. The young mare jumped flawlessly in Round B and headed to the jump-off as the fourth to go. With the three combinations ahead of the pair having at least one rail down, the door was left open for Hough and Ohlala who entered the arena and displayed their signature speed and agility to cross the timers clear and inside the time. The final combination in the jump-off also pulled a rail, leaving Hough and Ohlala as the only pair to post a clear round and thus securing Bronze.
"I am thrilled - we worked really hard for this medal. It was a great week and my horse performed beautifully. I am really happy to be going home with [an individual] medal," said Hough. "I went as quickly as I felt comfortable [in the jump-off] without taking too much risk and it worked out my way. She was a true champion."
Also competing for the U.S. in the Individual Final, Georgina Bloomberg (New York, N.Y.) and Gotham Enterprizes, LLC's Lilli had the very last rail down on course in Round A to head into Round B as one of eight combinations on four faults. An unfortunate rider error heading into the triple combination resulted in downed rails at both the A and B elements, giving the combination an eleventh-place finish, a placing that tied with four other combinations.
"Lilli went so well in the first round today. I think she really left it all out there. I was hoping for a better finish in the second round, but she was a bit tired and I was a little bit nervous. I couldn't have asked her for more," said an enthused Bloomberg. Riding on her first championship team, Bloomberg was ecstatic about her experience, having earned a Team Bronze earlier in the week. "I couldn't have asked for a better experience and am just really happy to be a part of this team. It was so cool, it made me so happy to be here and experience this with these people. The whole U.S. Equestrian Team has been incredible and I am so proud of both McLain and Lauren."
Check out HorsesDaily coverage of the 2015 Pan American Games