Double Gold and Individual Silver for USA in Dressage at 2015 Pan-Am Games

Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, TORONTO 2015 Pan-American Games, Caledon Equestrian Park, Chris von Martels, 2016 Olympic Games, Kimberly Herslow, Prix St George, Brittany Fraser, Chris Von Martels, Belinda Trussell, Megan Lane

Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, TORONTO 2015 Pan-American Games, Caledon Equestrian Park, Chris von Martels, 2016 Olympic Games, Kimberly Herslow, Prix St George, Brittany Fraser, Chris Von Martels, Belinda Trussell, Megan Lane

By Louise Parkes

America’s Steffen Peters and Laura Graves added individual gold and silver on July 14th to the team title secured on July 12th at the TORONTO 2015 Pan-American Games at the OLG Caledon Equestrian Park, Ontario, Canada. The host nation’s Chris von Martels scooped individual bronze.

The result is a sensational fifth consecutive Pan-American team victory for the Americans, bringing their tally to eight team and nine individual Dressage titles in the 64-year history of the event, and earning a team berth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

And it was a back-to-back double of individual gold for Peters who, although he didn’t surpass the Pan-American Games record score of 80.132 which he set at Guadalajara in Mexico four years ago with Weltino’s Magic, came close when posting 80.075 for today’s individual win with Legolas.

The Americans took the lead from the outset of the team competition and held on for gold, but the host Canadians chased them all the way to the line to claim silver, while Brazil just overtook Mexico for the bronze. Results were combined from two days of mixed Small and Big Tour competition that began with Prix St George and Grand Prix on July 11th, and only teams with Grand Prix combinations were eligible for the single Olympic berth on offer so only USA, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil were in that race.

Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, TORONTO 2015 Pan-American Games, Caledon Equestrian Park, Chris von Martels, 2016 Olympic Games, Kimberly Herslow, Prix St George, Brittany Fraser, Chris Von Martels, Belinda Trussell, Megan Lane

Photo (left): Individual gold medallist Steffen Peters (USA) on the podium. Photo: FEI/StockImageServices.com

American Steffen Peters posted the biggest Grand Prix score of the day with Legolas at 77.240, and when added to Laura Graves’ 75.080 with Verdades, and Kimberly Herslow’s 75.184 in the Prix St George, the first-day US tally was 230.504. Three scores from each team were taken into account, so Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo’s 71.790 in the Prix St George was the team discard.

However, the Canadians were hot on their heels when Brittany Fraser and All In scored 76.105 and Chris Von Martels and Zilverstar posted 75.026. Of the Canadian Big Tour pairs it was Belinda Trussell and Anton who scored highest with 74.949, with Megan Lane and Caravella awarded 72.400 for the discard. And going into the July 12th decider, Canada trailed the USA by just 4.433 points while the three-member Mexican team of Jesus Palacios (Wizard Banamex), Jose Padilla (Donnersberg), and Bernadette Pujals (Heslegaards Rolex) lay only 0.203 points ahead of Brazil’s Joao Paulo Dos Santos (Veleiro do Top), Sarah Waddell (Donelly 3), Joao Victor Marcari Oliva (Xama dos Pinhais), and Leandro Aparecido da Silva (D Caprio).

There was plenty of pressure as the action got underway on Sunday in the Intermediare 1 and FEI Grand Prix Special, but the Americans stood firm, bolstered by personal-best scores from both Graves in the Special and Herslow in the Intermediare 1, and backed up by Peters’ 72.667, while Schut-Kery posted 73.533. Their final tally of 460.506 moved them just over 5.5 points ahead of the Canadians to secure the gold at the end of the day, while the Brazilians leap-frogged the Mexicans for the bronze.

Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, TORONTO 2015 Pan-American Games, Caledon Equestrian Park, Chris von Martels, 2016 Olympic Games, Kimberly Herslow, Prix St George, Brittany Fraser, Chris Von Martels, Belinda Trussell, Megan Lane

Photo (above): Top Canadian Christopher von Martels (CAN) and Zilverstar. Photo credit: FEI/StockImageServices.com

US chef d’equipe, Robert Dover, said his team’s great result “showed that our Small Tour horses are beautifully trained and our Big Tour combinations showed why they are ranked seventh and eighth in the world right now. What could be better for a chef d’equipe than to bring a team and have them earn personal bests at a very important moment. Having earned qualification for the Olympic Games, it allows us to now focus and put our energy into preparing for Rio (2016 Olympic Games).”

Graves, whose meteoric rise to prominence only began in the lead-up to last summer’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy where she sensationally finished tenth individually with Verdades, was delighted with her personal best 77.177 in the Grand Prix Special. “He was amazing out there, really on again today!” she said of her horse. “He loves Toronto!” Graves with Verdades and Peters with Legolas were key players in the US team that lined up fourth in Normandy behind the three European powerhouses of Germany, Great Britain, and The Netherlands, who earned the three Olympic berths on offer there.

Steffen Peters paid tribute to the silver medallists. “The Canadians did a wonderful job. They rode extremely well and gave us quite the run - it wasn’t easy!” he said.

Canada’s Belinda Trussell, an Olympian and three-time competitor at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ who was competing in her first Pan American Games said, after scoring 76.578 in the Grand Prix Special, “I think, for Canada, that this Games has pushed us to a new level. To be coming away (from the team event) with nothing below 70 percent, and highlights of 76 percent, has never been done. It’s really exciting for Canada. We are so pumped as a nation, and pumped to go forward to the next Games. We are international contenders - there is huge excitement!” 

And the excitement continued on July 14th when a total of 21 horse-and-rider combinations contested the individual medals. Of these, 17 performed Intermediare 1, while the final four Big Tour partnerships performed the Freestyle.

With just six left to go, von Martels and Zilverstar rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with a percentage score of 79.500 for his Intermediare test. Judge at M, Great Britain’s Stephen Clarke, awarded 81.500 and at judge at H, America’s Lilo Fore, awarded 80.750, and all five Ground Jury members put the Canadian temporarily into first place.

The 32-year-old rider from Ontario held on to the advantage until overtaken by Peters and Legolas who posted the first, and only, score over 80 percent when third-last into the arena. Fore, Clarke, and Ground Jury President Elizabeth McMullan chose this pair for the number one spot this time around, setting the new target at 80.075. And when, last to go, 27-year-old Graves and Verdades collected 79.825 they scooped silver and moved von Martels and Zilverstar back to bronze. It was an extremely close-fought affair, with only 0.575 separating the three medal-winners.

After Sunday’s Grand Prix Special, Peters admitted to having some issues in the execution of his test, but in the individual competition he put all that behind him and came out once again with all guns blazing. “I’m still on cloud nine!” he said.

“On Sunday Legolas did a good job but I didn’t do my best riding job, so I wanted to prove today that Legolas deserves to be one of top horses in the world. I gave it every bit of my strength and he produced a wonderful clean test. And on top of that he allowed me to be within a tenth of a second to the music so we had high artistic scores.”

“This season we have had a few ups and downs, so to finish so strong in the last test of the season - I can hardly describe how I feel right now!” he added. 

Asked about teammate Laura Graves’ close silver-medal finish, Peters continued, “I knew before the competition today that it would be awfully close. I saw her doing a beautiful clean test, so the tension today was quite something. I have to admit I got very emotional when Legolas was called out the winner!”

And the 50-year-old rider was quick to refer back to his US teammates and the success they have achieved over the last few days. “Let’s not forget that every single rider, including the fourth horse, contributed to the team gold medal. There was a combination of drop scores, so everyone did their job, and it is a fantastic group of people - all good-hearted athletes. It’s quite something to win with wonderful friends you almost have to call family!” 

Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, TORONTO 2015 Pan-American Games, Caledon Equestrian Park, Chris von Martels, 2016 Olympic Games, Kimberly Herslow, Prix St George, Brittany Fraser, Chris Von Martels, Belinda Trussell, Megan Lane

Photo (above): US Gold Medal Team (L to R) Kimberley Herslow, Steffen Peters, Sabine Schut-Kery and Laura Graves on the podium at the OLG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park during the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games in Caledon, Ontario. Photo credit: FEI/StockImageServices.com

Team Results:

GOLD - USA 460.506

  • Sabine Schut-Kery (Sanceo) 71.790/73.553
  • Kimberly Herslow (Rosmarin) 75.184/77.158
  • Laura Graves (Verdades) 76.580/78.677
  • Steffen Peters (Legolas 92) 71.790/72.667

SILVER - Canada 454.938

  • Chris von Martels (Zilverstar) 75.026/76.210
  • Brittany Fraser (All In) 76.105/76.079
  • Megan Lane (Caravella) 72.400/72.892
  • Belinda Trussell (Anton) 74.940/76.578

BRONZE - Brazil 414.895

  • Leandro da Silva (Di Caprio) 69.474/69.026
  • Sarah Waddell (Donelly 3) 65.632/67.184
  • Joao Victor Marcari Oliva (Xama dos Pinhais) 69.184/69.211
  • Joao Paolo dos Sanctos (Veleiro do Top) 67.842/70.158

Individual Results:

GOLD – Steffen Peters (Legolas 92) USA 80.075

SILVER – Laura Graves (Verdades) USA 79.825

BRONZE – Chris von Martels (Zilverstar) CAN 79.500.

Victory in the team competition has secured a qualifying spot for the USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The list of teams so far qualified in Dressage for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games now includes, Brazil (automatic qualification), Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands (placings at Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy), Australia (best ranked team from Olympic Group F or G at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy), and USA (single qualifier from Pan-American Games 2015 in Toronto, Canada). 

The next major Olympic qualification opportunity is at the forthcoming FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany, 11-23 August 2015, where three further places are on offer. 

Main Photo: Individual gold medalist Steffen Peters (USA) with Legolas 92. Photo credit: FEI/StockImageServices.com

 

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