|Christine McCrea and Romantovich turned in a clear round to take individual gold at the Pan American Games. Photo: StockImageServices.com/FEI|
American Jumping riders showed their class last week when adding Individual gold and silver to the team title they claimed last Thursday at the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The team victory was utterly convincing, as all four riders kept a clean sheet to leave them with a final tally of just 2.90.
Despite their obvious strengths, there was plenty of pressure on the US side from the outset, as the defending Olympic champions had not yet qualified for London 2012. So Thursday’s result was more than pleasing for US Chef d’Equipe, George Morris, who was as impressed by his side’s skill in the ring as he was by what they achieved. “It’s the way they rode. I’m an ideological horseman. I’m not interested in it unless it’s beautifully ridden,” he said after Madden (Coral Reef Via Volo), McCrea (Romantovich Take One), Kent Farrington (Uceko) and McLain Ward (Antares) delivered the goods.
The Brazilian side of Alvaro Miranda Neto (AD Norson), Bernardo Alves (Bridgit), Karina Johannpeter (SRF Dragonfly de Joter) and Rodrigo Pessoa (HH Ashley) claimed silver while Mexico’s Antonio Maurier (Callao), Alberto Michan (Rosalia la Silla), Enrique Gonzalez (Criptonite) and Daniel Michan (Ragna T) took the bronze.
A Lot of Stress
“I have to be honest, it was a lot of stress, this Olympic qualification,” Ward said afterwards. “I felt a little more pressure today and yesterday than I have in past Olympic Games. But it was obviously a fantastic event and I think this is a great team. We came here with a very serious plan to not only try and win but obviously to try to qualify for the Olympic Games. To not qualify would have been a disaster for us. We’re proud of that, and everyone pulled together. We have a great team around us, not only George, and of course pretty good horses so that makes the job a little bit easier,” he added. It was a superb result, as for the first time since 1975, the US claimed Pan-American gold in all three disciplines.
Such was the quality of the US performance, that Madden was only competing on her own behalf when jumping last for the US side, as her team-mates had already clinched the team title. And with another lovely clear from the 13 year old Coral Reef Via Volo, she led the way into the Individual final with a zero score.
But championship debutante McCrea was close behind on a score of 0.88 with the bold-jumping 11 year old Romantovich Take One. And bolstering the US position going into the Individual fine, which was restricted to the top three riders from each nation lying within the leading 25, was US team pathfinder McLain Ward with Antares F in third.
There wasn’t a fence between the top five as the second and deciding round got underway in the afternoon, and Madden and her Belgian-bred horse continued to demonstrate the jumping prowess that gave them the advantage they established in Wednesday’s opening speed class. But it was the clock that punished them in the end as, to the near-disbelief of the spectators, they over-ran the time-allowed of 66 seconds by an excruciating 7/100ths of a second for a single time fault.
So when McCrea completed her fifth clear of the tournament, she overtook her team-mate for the title.
Madden was gracious in defeat. “It cost me a lot,” she said, referring to 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 (who won), we were still Gold and Silver and with the Team Gold it was a fantastic week for us so no complaints.” Ward, meanwhile, lost his grip on the bronze with one rail down so it was Brazil’s Bernardo Alves who stood on the third step of the medal-winners podium with a foot-perfect performance from Bridgit.
“I did not anticipate that, I’m sure Beezie didn’t anticipate that,” said McCrea on finding herself with the gold medal around her neck. “It just happened. That’s sports. My overall impression was this was a fabulous week,” she continued. “It was great. Our country needed this – we needed it,” she added.
And her team manager, George Morris, agreed. “We had a great week here, we had a great unit of people, they get along well – they’re lovely people,” he pointed out. “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.”
With a clean sweep of team gold and all but two of the individual medals on offer, the 2011 Pan-American Games will go down in the record books as the most successful ever for US riders.
GOLD – USA 2.90: Uceko (Kent Farrington;, Coral Reef Via Volo (Beezie Madden); Romantovich Take One (Christine McCrea); Antares F (McLain Ward);
SILVER – Brazil 11.58: AD Norson (Alvaro Miranda Neto); Bridgit (Bernardo Alves); SRF Dragonfly de Joter (Karina Johannpeter); HH Ashley (Rodrigo Pessoa);
BRONZE – Mexico: Callao (Antonio Maurer); Rosalia la Silla (Alberto Michan); Criptonite (Enrique Gonzalez); Ragna T (Daniel Michan).
GOLD – Romantovich Take One (Christine McCrea) USA 0.88;
SILVER – Coral Reef Via Volo (Beezie Madden) USA 1.00;
BRONZE – Bridgit (Bernardo Alves) BRA 2.09.