By Jessie Christie, Equestrian Canada

July 31 2019, Lima, PER – Tina Irwin of Stouffville, ON made a return trip to the Lima 2019 Pan American Games podium on July 31 in Peru, adding an individual silver medal to her team gold in dressage.

After leading the Canadian Dressage Team to gold on July 29, Irwin, 38, returned to the main stadium for the dressage individual final aboard Laurencio (Laurentio x Donnerhall), a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding she co-owns with her husband, coach, and fellow elite dressage athlete, Jaimey Irwin. The pair was making a solid run for gold performing their Intermediate I Freestyle, right up until Laurencio misinterpreted a movement at the very end of their test.

L-R: Dressage individual medallists Tina Irwin of Canada (silver), Sarah Lockman of USA (gold), and Jennifer Baumert of USA (bronze). Photo: Daniel Apuy-Getty Images for FEI

“I was super happy with my ride until the very last centreline, where my horse decided to give a preview of Tokyo and did a bunch of one-tempis,” joked Irwin, explaining that one-tempis are a movement found at the big tour level, which the duo had been competing in before making the decision to come back down to the small tour in 2019 with the aim of helping Canada secure Tokyo qualification in Lima. “That was not planned, but other than that he felt great, so what can you do? It cost me some marks, I’m sure, but I was really happy with the rest of the Freestyle, he was great.”

Ultimately, Irwin received a score of 77.780 percent, a close shave off the score of 78.980 percent earned by individual gold medalist, Sarah Lockman of the United States and First Apple. American Jennifer Baumert took bronze aboard Handsome with 75.775 percent.

Tina Irwin and Laurencio. Photo: ©Cealy Tetley - www.tetleyphoto.com 

Grabbing the attention of both the judges and the crowd, Irwin began her freestyle test to music with one of the more challenging movements, the two-tempi changes. And, she never let up on the level of difficulty, performing three-tempi changes on a bending, serpentine line, and navigating a pirouette straight into an extended canter. The intricate choreography combined with perfectly synced music made for a crowd-pleasing performance from start to finish.

“The people who designed my freestyle music are really good friends, Wendy Watson and Lewis Manne from Zap Productions in Toronto,” said Irwin of the music, which incorporated a medley of songs, such as Hey Brother by Acivvi,(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life of Dirty Dancing fame, and the much-covered Life is Life, originally by Opus. “Zap Productions were more into the film industry and documentaries, but they also produce some of their own music. They did the theme song for the Canadian show, Degrassi, with the famous Drake. I tell them which pieces of music I like, then I put the choreography together and they compose a whole new piece for the freestyle.”

While Irwin has a team silver medal under her belt from the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, MEX, Lima represents her first individual medal.

Naima Moreira Laliberté and Statesman. Photo: ©Cealy Tetley - www.tetleyphoto.com

“It's amazing to get the silver medal. I was obviously thrilled with the team gold, and now to be on the podium individually is fantastic, so I'm thrilled,” she said. “It was definitely my goal, I was coming to win a medal. I was hoping for gold, but that’s okay. My horse was amazing through the whole competition. We did our best and they’re not machines. At the end of the day, one little mistake can cost you first position, potentially. I’m okay with that, my horse tried his heart out. Now, my plan is to go back to grand prix. We’re going to take a little break after Pan Ams and then we’ll make a new plan for 2020.”

Next in the standings for Canada was Naima Moreira Laliberté, 22, of Outremont, QC, who closed out her major games debut in sixth place and 73.565 percent individually riding Statesman, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding sired by Sandro Hit and owned by KML S.à.r.l. Moreira Laliberté was a big tour competitor for Canada, and therefore performing in the Grand Prix Freestyle. As per Pan Am rules, dressage teams can be made up of both big tour and small tour athletes, with scores from the two levels of classes being combined to determine the overall individual leaderboard.

Moreira Laliberté was working on a clean and smooth test until the extended canter, where unplanned exuberance from Statesman created a chain reaction of a few missed movements.

Lindsay Kellock and Floratina. Photo: ©Cealy Tetley - www.tetleyphoto.com 

“Through misunderstanding, he took off (in the extended canter), and unfortunately that was very, very costly,” explained Moreira Laliberté, who took over the ride on Statesman in 2018, competing at the Under 25 level before moving up to grand prix in 2019. “I just didn’t think that at this point in the competition, he’d be feeling so fresh. But, we had a good recovery, and I'm also really pleased with the beginning of our test.”

For the majority of her test, Moreira Laliberté was right on cue with her music, which was an instrumental piece of predominantly strings and piano, custom-created for her and Statesman by French composer, Jacques Trupin. “I sent him a video with a timeline, and from scratch, he wrote everything, recorded it and mastered it. It was his first time doing it for horses, and he did an amazing job.” 

Rounding out the Canadian results was Lindsay Kellock, 29, of Toronto, ON, who finished in seventh place overall after receiving a score of 73.550 percent aboard Floratina (Fidertanz 2 x Rubin Royal OLD), an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Chloe Gasiorowski.

“I think today, I was finally feeling Flora just a little bit exhausted,” explained Kellock of the few bobbles in her freestyle performance, which was designed by Tamara Williamson of Kurboom and features the music of Irish composer, Ronan Hardiman. “She got a little opinionated in her changes, but I’m still so happy with her. Her performance through this whole Games has just been amazing. We’ve had two personal bests here – one percentage point higher than we normally get.”

Gold medallist Sarah Lockman and First Apple. Photo: Daniel Apuy-Getty Images for FEI

The dressage individual final featured the top 50 percent of horse-rider combinations from the big tour and small tour following the team final, which also acted as the second and last individual qualifier. However, in light of the caveat that a maximum of three athletes per country were permitted to the individual final, the remaining member of the Canadian Dressage Team, Jill Irving, 56, of Moncton, NB, was unable to move forward. She closed out her debut multi-sport games with Degas 12 (De Niro 6 x Regazzoni), a 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding she co-owns with Windhaven Farm, in the team final where she landed third in the Grand Prix Special, and finished the day sitting 11th in the overall individual standings.

For the Dressage Team Medal Results please see Dressage Team Medals at the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games.

Next up for the Canadian Equestrian Team at the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games will be eventing, which kicks off on August 2 with the dressage phase, followed by cross-country on August 3 and jumping on August 4.

For more information on equestrian events at the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games, including the full schedule of equestrian competition, entries and results, please visit www.lima2019.pe/en.   

Main photo: Individual silver medallist Tina Irwin and Laurencio. Photo: Raul Sifuentes-Getty Images for FEI

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