By Jessie Christie, Equestrian Canada
August 4, 2019, Lima, PER – After a foot-perfect performance in the final jumping phase, Canadian Eventing Team members, Dana Cooke, Colleen Loach, Jessica Phoenix and Karl Slezak claimed the bronze medal at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games in Peru on August 4.
Following a challenging cross-country day, the Canadian Eventing Team moved from their dressage standing of second down to the bronze medal position on a team total of 183.7. This would prove to be their final score and placing after three consecutive clear rides over the jumping course, which featured 11 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts set by FEI 4* Course Designer, Guilherme Jorge of Brazil.
Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. Photo: @Cealy Tetley – www.tetleyphoto.com
The top two spots on the podium, and therefore the two qualifications for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, went to the United States (91.2) and Brazil (122.1).
Individually, Boyd Martin of the US won gold with Tsetserleg on 25.6, with teammate Lynn Symansky piloting RF Cool Play to silver with 29.2. Brazil’s Carlos Parro earned bronze aboard Quaikin Qurious on a score of 34.9.
Phoenix, who resides in Cannington, ON, maintained her individual standing of fifth from cross-country on a score of 37.0, and was Canada’s highest-placed athlete aboard her 17-year-old Westphalian gelding, Pavarotti (Pavarotti van de Helle x Foxiland). The duo’s quick and careful trip around the jumping track, which included double and triple combinations, a liverpool, and a delicate wall, elicited strong cheers from the packed stands.
“I could not be happier with Pavarotti’s performance,” said Phoenix, 35, who stepped up to her third consecutive Pan Am podium, having won individual gold and team silver in Guadalajara, MEX in 2011, and individual silver and team bronze from 2015 in Toronto. Remarkably, all medals were won aboard Pavarotti. “He’s such a competitive horse that.
Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes. Photo: @Cealy Tetley – www.tetleyphoto.com
Phoenix continued, “As a country, we were faultless today, so that is as good as it gets. We really finished on a high note and I’m really proud of our horses and our riders today. Bronze isn’t quite what we were going for here, but the memories that you take away are of the group of people you were there with - and we’ve had an incredible couple of weeks together at training camp and throughout this competition. I was really honoured to be standing next to them on that podium today.”
Slezak, 37, was the next best on the individual leaderboard, moving up one spot from his cross-country standing to close out his inaugural major games in 12th place on 58.9 penalties. Riding Fernhill Wishes (Chacoa x Gildawn Diamond), he executed one of the day’s smoothest jumping rounds, piloting the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding he co-owns with Kirk Hoppner to a relaxed, yet efficient effort.
“He’s a fantastic jumper. He’s always so level - that was probably one of his more lively rounds,” joked Slezak, who calls Tottenham, ON home, and is known for his talent at bringing young horses along up the eventing ranks. “I am super excited about the bronze medal. It was a great experience and we have a great team, I loved every minute of it. (Lima) was a good building experience and we look forward to the future.”
Colleen Loach, a 36-year-old Canadian Olympian from Dunham, QC, ended her fourth consecutive major games and second Pan Am Games in 20th place overall aboard FE Golden Eye (Goldfever x Contendro I), a rising talent she owns in partnership with Amanda Bernhard. The duo were Canada’s best performers in the dressage phase, but the seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding had a few “green” moments cross-country, resulting in a final score of 87.8. However, due to FE Golden Eye’s exuberant jumping efforts back in the stadium, they finished strong and were one of the fan favourite performances of the day.
Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye. Photo: @Cealy Tetley – www.tetleyphoto.com
“I’m very happy with my horse. He had a great experience here and he will be back in the future,” said Loach. “Winning a medal as a team is always special, even if it wasn’t exactly the one we were going for. We will do our homework and be back, better than ever.”
Although Canada’s final team member, Dana Cooke, 31, of Merritt, BC did complete cross-country and was eligible to move forward with Mississippi, she opted to forego the final jumping round in light of a scrape her horse received during a bobble at a challenging corner obstacle with narrow flags on cross-country.
“Unfortunately, my mare has a minor wound with stitches, but she will be back out on another day and it will be better next time,” Cooke said of the nine-year-old Württemberger mare (Cassini II x Legaat), owned by the FE Mississippi Syndicate LLC.
Chef d’Équipe, Rob Stevenson added, “Mississippi scraped an elbow on one of the jumps. When we had the chance to look at the horses as a team today, realizing that she was the drop score, we knew we didn’t need to press that horse unnecessarily. So, we felt it was in the best interest of the horse that she not undergo any type of tests today, and we chose simply to withdraw her before the jog.”
Dana Cooke and Mississippi finished 13th in the dressage phase of the event. The pair completed the cross-country in 23rd position, but due to a minor scrape requiring stitches in the cross-country portion they did not compete in the final jumping round. Photo: @Cealy Tetley – www.tetleyphoto.com
Prior to withdrawing, Cooke had ranked 13th in dressage and finished cross-country in 23rd. “Winning a medal – any medal – is honestly amazing and representing your country is a big honour, so it is super exciting,” Cooke remarked about her first-ever major games.
Stevenson buttoned up the Canadian Eventing Team’s performance by stating, “I think overall, it was a very good experience for the team. It’s very unfortunate not to get the silver, which would have established our qualification for Tokyo. That was clearly the goal, but I think we should realize that it was perhaps a tougher competition than might have been expected and we should be thankful to finish a team in the bronze medal position. Even though silver was our goal, we have to be thankful to be here, to have competed successfully enough to win a medal in a Pan American championship, and then to look forward to what’s next.”
With eventing concluded, the Canadian Show Jumping Team closed out the equestrian portion of the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games. For their results please see Canadian Show Jumping Team Tokyo Bound.
For more information on equestrian events at the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games please visit www.lima2019.pe/en.
Main photo: The Canadian Eventing Team celebrates their bronze medals. (L-R) Karl Slezak, Colleen Loach, Jessica Phoenix, and Dana Cooke. Photo: @Cealy Tetley – www.tetleyphoto.com