Caledon, Ontario—July 21
At the end of this day of show jumping, the first for these Pan American Games, there are 30 riders sitting tied for first out of 50 starters.
So what did today mean in terms of team scores and individual scores going forward? The short answer: not a lot—at least in terms of the numbers.
This round, set by Michel Vaillancourt at 1.50-meter, is being used to determine the team start order for the two-round nations cup day on Thursday. But the teams aren’t carrying forward any penalties from today, and all 50 riders are eligible to jump for the second individual round on Thursday, which is also the first team round. (Today was the first individual round.)
However, the scores individuals earn today will be added to their scores from the two rounds on Thursday, and only the top 35 will go forward to the individual final on Saturday. But for that competition, all riders start again on 0 penalties. Confusing enough? This is a new format for Pan Am Games, but it’s similar to the one used at the 2012 London Olympic Games. (You can read more about it in the Pan Ams guide.)
But even with those facts, riders today still had the same goal of a clear round in the ring. All U.S. pairs accomplished that task, with McLain Ward jumping clear aboard Rothchild alongside Georgina Bloomberg on Lilli, Lauren Hough on Ohlala and Kent Farrington on Gazelle.
All Canadians also jumped clear. Those two countries are tied for first heading into the next round with Colombia, who just had one rider pick up 2 time penalties, and Brazil, with one 4-faulter. But again, those scores will be dropped, and the order of those five first-placed teams will be determined by a draw. They’ll be the last five to go Thursday.
(Ian Millar and Dixson. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.)
Riders had mixed feelings about this format.
“Personally I thought the old format was much better,” said Canada’s Eric Lamaze, who jumped clear with Coco Bongo. “I think the first day should count for much more than it counts today. I believe that at the end of the day, you could see a lot of clear rounds, and at these championships you shouldn’t really see that. I don’t think it’s any fault of Michel Vaillancourt. I think he has a difficult job [building for multiple levels].
“As it turns out, the horses are jumping well here, and this would be an incredible table C-type course to give us a ranking for starting [Thursday],” Lamaze continued. “I think championships should be decided on every day and not just one day. But that’s how I won the Olympic gold, so maybe I shouldn’t be criticizing this format, but I think it’s much more thrilling to have a table C [speed round with faults converted] the first day, have to do some inside turns, so then the team competition really starts today.”
Other riders thought it was a good way to get horses and riders in the ring and rolling before the stakes are higher Thursday and Saturday.
“By just tying us all, it takes a little bit of the sting out of the whole job,” said Ian Millar, who jumped a clear trip with Dixson. “You’ve just got to get it done. But I think what Mr. Vaillancourt is doing is A, letting the horses get started, and B, when the horses come from training and walk into a new environment, they’re just naturally more alert and sharp. The second time they say, ‘Oh yeah, I was here a couple of days ago,’ and they’re not quite as alert. You didn’t see any planks out there today, you didn’t see short vertical rails. He’s got all of that in his bag of tricks, and he desensitizes them just that little bit. From a course designer’s perspective, it’s an excellent strategy he’s applying.”
Soundbites From The Day
(Eric Lamaze and Coco Bongo. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.)
On being afraid of big green beach chairs:
“I was really worried about that oxer with the beach chair there [at fence 5]. I was worried when I walked it already, because he’s not a spooky horse at the actual fence, but things on the side—sometimes he can be a little distracted.
“I was a little worried about him, so I went to show it to him when I went in, and I didn’t really like the way he looked at it. The buzzer came on, and I trotted a circle around it, and he was still sort of looking at it sideways, so I knew I needed to step out of the turn and just sort of really believe it was going to happen. I knew he was going to jump quite high over it, which he did. But he’s very brave. Even when he jumps like that, he just continues.” —Lamaze
On feeling the pressure for Olympic qualification:
“Yes, absolutely, we feel that. We are aware of the qualification, but it’s also every time you go in the ring. If you don’t feel the pressure it’s because you’re not concentrating enough on the task. It’s part of any athlete, I believe, and it’s just about how you control it and use it as a positive.” —Yann Candele, who jumped a clear round for Canada with Showgirl
On having a first team experience:
“This was my main goal for the year. We always set one main goal for ourselves, and it was a huge relief when I made the team—but then there’s the reality of having to keep yourself healthy, your horse healthy, make sure everything went well, so to get here in one piece and coming in confident and ready, it’s a huge relief. It’s an honor to be part of the team. It’s a great group of people, and I’m honored to be part of it.” —Bloomberg
On wanting bigger jumps:
“To be honest, it was probably the toughest day for me because the jumps weren’t very big, and she’s quite a forward horse, and it takes a lot to back her up. Towards the second half of the course she started to slow herself down a bit, but in the beginning she thought it was a go-as-fast-as-you-can round.” —Hough
(McLain Ward and Rothchild. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.)
On taking nothing for granted:
“I thought it was a good track. It was friendly. The specs have changed in this event, so I would say it was bigger than the first day [at the 2011 Pan American Games] in Guadalajara, but I thought the distances were presented nicely, and there were no gimmicks. You never want to take these things for granted. Things go wrong very fast, and even though it’s probably well in my horse’s wheelhouse, you still have to do the jumping.” —Ward