Oct. 23—Guadalajara, Mexico
Jessica Phoenix wrapped up a perfect Pan American Games performance this afternoon, riding a second fault-free show jumping round to earn individual eventing gold aboard Pavarotti. She’d already jumped clean once that day in the jumping round that determined the team medals. That performance helped Canada clinch team silver.
Two team gold medalists, U.S. riders Hannah Sue Burnett aboard Harbour Pilot and Buck Davidson on Absolute Liberty, jumped perfectly again to take silver and bronze respectively. Michael Pollard, who sat second aboard Schoensgreen Hanni after the first show jumping round, knocked two rails in the second round to fall to fourth.
“This seems surreal,” said Phoenix, 28. “None of us would be here without the team of people behind us, from our coaches to our support staff and our families at home who are cheering us on.”
Guadalajara native Javier “el Diablo” Fernández built a shorter track for the second round, but plenty of horses showed the effects of a long three days of competition. Only three riders from each team could advance to the final round of jumping, so fellow team gold medalists Lynn Symansky on Donner and Shannon Lilley on Ballingowan Pizazz cheered on their U.S. teammates from the sidelines.
It’s the first time both Phoenix and Burnett represented their countries in team competition (Phoenix attended the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky as an individual), and Phoenix felt it. She went into the final round with less than a rail in hand, and Pavarotti jumped beautifully.
“You want to do well for your teammates,” said Phoenix, Uxbridge, Ont. “It’s a different mindset when the team competition’s done and you’ve moved on to the individual. Mentally you feel more pressure when you’re riding for your team.”
Burnett, The Plains, Va., rode the Jacqueline Mars-owned gelding who was trained by David O’Connor, who also served as chef d’equipe for the Canadian team.
“It’s not that it’s easy, but it’s fantastic to be a part of a team like this,” said Burnett, who, like Phoenix and Davidson, finished on her dressage score. “The group we had throughout the week—there was lots of support all the way around. My horse did his job, and the team came through. It was a fantastic week.”
Absolute Liberty’s owner, Sharon Will, was on hand at La Hípica to see the horse she bred win bronze. While Davidson was thrilled to accept his medal, he admitted there was some disappointment there as well.
“We’re such a close team,” he said. “I almost feel guilty that I’m sitting here instead of Mike [Pollard]. He had such a great weekend, and winning team gold meant more to us than the individual medals. We wanted to come as a team and win gold as a team, and that’s what we did.”
The eventing horses will fly back tomorrow, and Pan American show jumping competition gets underway. The U.S. team has a heavy burden on their shoulders as they need to do well here in order to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. The show jumpers will jog tomorrow, Oct. 23, and have an official warm-up on Tuesday. Competition kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 25, with the speed round.