Caledon, Ontario - The Canadian Show Jumping Team of Yann Candele of Caledon, ON, Tiffany Foster of North Vancouver, BC, Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, ON, and Ian Millar of Perth, ON, won the gold medal at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games on July 23 at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Caledon, ON.
Held over two nail-biting rounds, Canada persevered to win the team gold with seven faults over Argentina with eight faults and the United States with 12 faults for bronze. It was a proud moment as Canada’s Minister of State (Sport), the Honourable Bal Gosal, hung the gold medals around the necks of each member of the Canadian Show Jumping Team.
Canada also stamped its ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Argentina claimed the only other qualifying spot on offer. The United States and the home nation, Brazil, were pre-qualified.
Canada was tied for third with Brazil following the opening round of competition with six faults. Colombia held the lead at the half-way point with one fault while Argentina sat second with two faults. Canada piled on the pressure however, counting only one time fault in the second round of competition to move up and take the gold medal on home ground.
Caledon’s own Candele was the hometown hero, delivering the best scores of the Canadian Show Jumping Team riding Showgirl, a 15-year-old chestnut selle francais mare (Gold de Becourt x Elf III) owned by the Watermark Group. Candele jumped clear in the first and second round of competition, but was caught by the clock both times to pick up one time fault in each round. Athletes had 83 seconds to complete the course designed by Canada’s Michel Vaillancourt, individual silver medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
“Canada is the best! Our team is awesome!” said Candele, 44. “We have the youth with Tiffany, and after you have Ian and Eric, who are veterans and super experienced. Tiffany and I try to put good scores and let the veterans carry the team. We try our hearts out, and we know we have them coming behind us.”
As for winning in front of a home crowd, Candele said, “To win in front of a home crowd is more special, but winning a gold medal is always a special moment; it doesn’t matter where it is!”
In a dramatic day of sport, Foster had a stop on course after making an error judging the distance to fence ten in the opening round. The North Vancouver native quickly redeemed herself, coming back in the second round to jump clear for Canada riding Tripple X III, a 13-year-old dark bay Anglo European stallion (Namelus R x Cantango) owned by Andy and Carlene Ziegler’s Artisan Farms LLC.
“I told the guys that if they kept us in the game, I would go clear; at least I delivered!” said Foster, who is one day shy of her 31st birthday. “It means everything to win the gold medal. I’ve never won a gold medal. I’ve never even done a Pan American Games. It’s incredible. Our team is the best!”
Having incurred four faults following a late rail at fence 12 in the opening round of competition, Lamaze was clear in the second round. His incredible performance riding Coco Bongo, a ten-year-old bay Rheinlander stallion (Caretino x Calido) also owned by Artisan Farms LLC, was met with thunderous applause from the audience, and secured Canada’s Olympic qualification.
“It means everything!” said Lamaze, 47, of Canada’s gold medal performance. “The first goal was to qualify for Rio, and then to win a gold medal. We have a lot of fans here in the stands cheering for us, and we wanted to give them something to cheer about!
“Ian and I have had some great success together on the team, and it’s great to share a medal with Yann and Tiffany,” continued Lamaze, who had previously won team silver and bronze and individual bronze medals before making his fifth consecutive Pan Am Games appearance in 2015. “To do it here at home in Toronto is extra-special.”
Millar claimed a team gold medal in his record tenth Pan American Games appearance. It had been 28 years since Canada last won team gold at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, IN, when Millar was part of the team with Big Ben, and also claimed individual gold. Millar delivered a clear round, with one time fault, in the opening round when Canada needed it most riding Dixson, a 12-year-old bay Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco) owned by Susan and Ariel Grange.
“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!” said Millar, 68, who attributes his longevity in the sport to his daily exercise regimen. “This was a tough one at home. We are going to Rio, which was very important, obviously, and we have gold medals hanging around our necks. The mission was accomplished. It is a very big deal. Rio it is!”
Canadian Show Jumping Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin was thrilled with his team’s performance, saying, “We’ve checked off a lot of boxes today, and I feel a big sense of relief. Qualified for the Olympics? Check. Gold medal at the Pan American Games? Check. Winning in our home country in front of our home fans? Check. I am really thrilled.”
The team medals were decided over two rounds of competition, with ten nations contesting the team competition. A two-round final will also decide the individual medals, which sees all competitors starting on an equal score of zero, on Saturday, July 25.
While all four Canadians ranked in the top 35 to qualify for the Individual Final, only the top three athletes from each nation move forward. That means Foster, who was ranked 18th in the individual standings, will be cheering on her teammates come Saturday.
The Canadian Show Jumping Team is led by chef d’equipe Mark Laskin, Team Manager Karen Hendry-Ouellette, Team Veterinarian Dr. Sylvie Surprenant, and Stable Manager Darren Roberts.
For more information on equestrian events at the Pan American Games, please visit www.toronto2015.org.