Guadalajara, Mexico - In a sport of inches it came down to 7/100ths of a second. Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, NY) had led the 2011 Pan American Games since Wednesday, and when she landed over the last fence in the second round of the day it seemed Individual Gold was secure with her fifth clear round of the Games.
Until the clock stopped.
She and Coral Reef Via Volo finished with a time of 66.07, just over the time allowed of 66 seconds. That one time fault left her in the Silver medal position behind her teammate Christine McCrea (Windsor, CT) and Romantovich Take One.
It was an epic finish. There wasn't a rail separating the top five horses going into the final round - and at the end of all the jumping, McCrea and Windsor Show Stables' 11-year-old Dutch gelding finished up the way they started. They jumped five clear rounds over three days and ended their first Pan American Games with Team and Individual Gold on a score of .88.
"My overall impression was this was a fabulous week," said McCrea. "It was great. Our country needed this - we needed it."
Madden is the master of precise riding and clutch performances so her time fault surprised everyone in attendance. "I did not anticipate that, I'm sure Beezie didn't anticipate that," said McCrea. "It just happened. That's sports."
Madden and Coral Reef Ranch's 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare put on a jumping clinic throughout the week, they began by winning the speed class on Wednesday - but were victims of the clock in the final moments of these Games.
"It cost me a lot," said Madden of her time fault. "But thank god I have a strong team here and Chris was to take it up - I am happy it was an American, we were still Gold and Silver and with the Team Gold it was a fantastic week for us so no complaints."
Bernardo Alves moved up to third for Brazil on Bridgit - after the third American, McLain Ward (Brewster, NY) had one rail down to finish fourth on Antares F in an impressive five-round effort.
The course was imposing, especially in Saturday's second round but Romantovich Take One jumped around Javier Fernandez' courses easily, he never looked challenged - simply bounding around the main arena at the Guadalajara Country Club. Chef d'Equipe George Morris was thrilled with the overall result of his squad.
"We had a great week here, we had a great unit of people, they get along well - they're lovely people," said Morris. "We had a great chemistry of people, this club, this whole venue - this is just as nice as any competition I've ever been to at any level anywhere... the atmosphere was great. We have lovely horses down here - the support staff that helps each of these riders are real professionals. It's all preparation."
With Team Gold , the U.S. secured qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games and with this Jumping result - the U.S. takes home it's ninth and 10th medals of these Games sweeping Team Gold in Dressage, Eventing and Jumping - the U.S. riders won every Individual medal except for two: Individual Gold in Eventing and Individual Bronze in Jumping. It is the most successful Pan American Games for the United States equestrian teams in history.
Follow the U.S. Team at the Pan American Games (photos, blogs and more): http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2011PanAmGames/
Photos: Christine McCrea and Romantovich Take One. Photo: Shannon Brinkman; L-R: Beezie Madden (Silver), Christine McCrea (Gold) and Bernardo Alves (Bronze). Photo: Shannon Brinkman.