Two days after winning team gold at the Pan American Games in Chile, U.S. riders completed their medal set by taking silver and bronze in the individual competition. Brazil’s Stephan de Freitas Barcha won gold.
Kent Farrington was the U.S. squad’s breakout star in Friday’s competition, climbing from ninth place going into the day to jump two smooth rounds that lifted him to the silver medal with a final score of 9.64 points to de Freitas Barcha’s winning 8.06. The U.S. team then took third and fourth places as well, with McLain Ward in bronze position (15.34) and Laura Kraut behind him (15.39).
“The end of the championship is always a battle,” Farrington said. “I had to battle from the bottom of the pack today with two very difficult rounds, so I knew that it would be tough jumping. So I hoped that I could get to a medal. As it got closer, it looked like, OK, definitely a medal; which one is it going to be?”
Farrington heaped praise on his partner Landon for the way the 10-year-old Zangersheide (Comilfo Plus Z— Indigo Van De Meulenberg, Quadrillo) owned by Haity McNerney improved throughout the week.
“He’s really coming into his own,” Farrington said of the horse, whom he got as a 7-year-old. “He won two five-star grand prix already, and I thought he actually jumped better and better as the week went on. He showed a bit of his greenness there in the final round when he spooked at the island, but he’s an incredible athlete. You can see that even when we get into trouble, he battles his way, and I thought he finished really strong. That was great experience for him, and I think he’ll grow from that.”
The pair had an unlucky foot hit the tape on the water jump in Friday’s first round, and then came back to deliver the only clear in the second and final round.
“I have a very inexperienced horse jumping at this level; I thought he got better as the week went, and I’m thrilled with the result,” Farrington said.
“[They were] big rounds today; real jumping,” he continued. “I think that shows what the Pan Am Games has become in our sport. Different than Pan Ams in the past, now I think it’s at full dimension, and the final rounds there, they were able to build it to that with the level of riders they had here today.”
U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland was thrilled with promise he saw in the way Landon and Kraut’s Dorado 212, another 10-year-old who was green to the level, performed.
“Those are building partnerships,” he said. “Laura’s horse ‘Dorado,’ just in the last four or five months has improved so much, and he was great in Barcelona, and here he was even one step further. Kent with Landon the same thing: It’s been maybe a little bit longer partnership, but it’s going up and up and up, and I mean he jumped as well as he ever has in his life today. All week [there was] some fancy riding on his part, and the horse really came through.”
Ward, who finished third on the team’s most experienced horse, Beechwood Stables LLC’s 14-year-old German Sporthorse Contagious, had two rails in the first round and one in the second, dropping him from first to third place.
“[It was a] brilliant week for the American team,” he said. “Obviously the goal was to win a gold medal and qualify for Paris, and we accomplished that, I think, with a lot of style, so I’m very proud of my team and my horse.
“Contagious has been brilliant,” he added. “He fought, he performed hard today. [We had] a little bit of bad luck in a couple of places; there’s always a few things I can look to do better, but we fought hard and he performed great. I’m very grateful to all the people who make it happen for me to have a horse as special as him.”
The pair’s resume includes performances on arguably bigger stages, including the 2022 FEI World Championships (Denmark) and team silver at the 2021 Toyko Olympics, but Ward said being a part of the Pan Am squad is always a thrill.
“Championships [are] what gets your blood up,” he said. “I still love it; I’m proud of the way I rode this week and the way my horse performed.”
Canada also saw two riders finish in the top 10, with Amy Millar and Truman taking fifth place on a score of 17.71, and Beth Underhill and Nikka VD Bisschop taking ninth (21.02).
The competition also awarded three individual Olympic berths. They went to Argentina’s Jose Maria Larocca (Finn Lente) who finished eighth, Roberto Teran Tafur (Dez Oktoff) of Colombia, who finished seventh, and Chile’s Agustin Covarrubias (Nelson du Petit Vivier) who finished in 13th place.
Watch de Freitas Barcha’s winning final round, courtesy of FEI.tv:
See full results here.