Rio Prepares to Welcome the Americas
The Opening Ceremonies of the XV Pan American Games will take place in the Maracaña Stadium in downtown Rio de Janeiro on 13 July. An estimated 95,000 spectators will welcome more than 5,500 athletes from the 42 countries of North, Central and South America. Equestrian, one of 34 sports at these Games, will take place at the National Equestrian Centre at the Deodoro Military Club, 30 kilometres north of the Pan American Village. Approximately 100 horse and rider combinations from 18 countries will compete for team and individual medals in the Olympic disciplines of Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. Much more than medals is at stake for the countries not yet qualified to send teams to the 2008 Olympics. Team USA has qualified for the equestrian competition in all three disciplines, thanks to its teams’ performances at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games. Olympic team berths will be awarded to the top finishing countries other than the USA at the Pan Am Games: three in Jumping, and two each in Dressage and Eventing. An additional five individual Olympic spots (one North American and four Central or South Americans) will be earned in Jumping.
Pan American equestrian competition will get under way on the first day of the Games, 14 July, with the team Dressage. The Dressage finishes on 18 July with the Individual medal final. Eventing will run from 20 to 22 July, with team and individual medals to be awarded on the 22nd. Jumping will wrap up equestrian competition, starting on 26 July and finishing with the Individual medal final on the last day of the Pan Am Games, Sunday, 29 July.
This will be the first Pan Am Games at which the Dressage teams will consist of only three members, a change that reflects the new format being introduced at the 2008 Olympics. Teams are permitted to send a travelling reserve horse and rider that can be substituted as late as one hour before the horse being substituted is scheduled to compete in the team test. In order to qualify for a team medal, all three members must complete the Prix St. Georges test, which comprises the team competition. The top 25 horses from the team test will proceed to the Intermediaire I test for individual competition. The top fifteen from that competition go on to the individual final, the Intermediaire Freestyle. Final individual placings are calculated by combining the results of the two individual tests. Eight teams in total will compete for the medals in Rio. The defending gold medal team from the US will face challenges from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
Three day Eventing at the Pan Am Games takes place at the 3-star level, and teams consist of four members. Each country is also entitled to enter up to two individual competitors. The Dressage phase will take place on the first day, with the Cross Country and Jumping following on the subsequent two days. The cross country course in Rio, designed by Sue Benson of Great Britain, was recently completed and has not yet been used in competition. Only five full teams will compete at these Pan Am Games, with the US defending its title against Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Chile.
Jumping will have the highest number of competitors of all three disciplines at these Games; ten teams are entered, as well as an additional ten individuals from six countries. Once again, the US is the team to beat, having taken team gold in Santo Domingo in 2003. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela will vie for medals against the Americans. Teams consist of four members, with a travelling reserve permitted. Team competition will take place over two rounds, a Table C speed class on day one, followed by a two-round Table A on the second day. The maximum height of obstacles in the team final is 1.5 metres. The individual final, which will have obstacles up to 1.6 metres in height, is also a two-round Table A test; all competitors not previously eliminated are permitted to enter. The Brazilian Pan Am team Jumping trials were held at the National Equestrian Centre in June. The footing was tested and approved by the competitors and the foreign Technical Delegate, Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela.
Only one individual title defender will compete in Rio this July: Puerto Rican show jumper Mark Watring won the gold medal at the last Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 2003 with Sapphire. He has qualified for these Pan Am Games with the now fifteen year old grey Holsteiner gelding. The 2003 individual dressage gold medalist Leslie Reid will not be on the Canadian team in Brazil. She withdrew her horse Orion from the Canadian selection trials, citing onerous trial and travel schedules sprung on candidates by Dressage Canada just days before the trials began. Darren Chiacchia and Windfall won gold at the Pan American Championship that took place at Fair Hill International in October 2003. Chiaccha was named as an alternate with the horse Better I Do It for the 2007 team.
The weather at these Pan Am Games is not anticipated to be a problem for competitors, since it is winter in the southern hemisphere. Average daily temperatures in Rio in July are 25 degrees Celsius, and it is also one of the driest months of the year. As of 9 July, the Canadian, American, Mexican, Guatemalan and Argentinian Dressage horses had arrived at the National Equestrian Centre. The Eventing and jumping horses will arrive closer to their competition dates.