By Kenneth J. Braddick. Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct. 29.
The USA’s Christine McCrea on Romantovich Take One swept to a fifth clear round to claim the individual gold medal in jumping at the Pan American Games Saturday, but the U.S. missed the opportunity for an historic sweep after taking team gold two days earlier. Christine of East Windsor, Connecticut and the 11-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding made it look easy while Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, New York, and Coral Reef Via Volo incurred a single time fault, it was 7/100ths of a second, and dropped from the lead they had held since the beginning of these championships to take silver.
Bernardo Alves of Brazil on Bridgit took the bronze after McClain Ward of Brewster, New York, on Antares F pulled a rail to finish fourth, out of the medals.
Although the U.S. did not sweep all the medals, they did make history at these Games held once every four years.
The U.S. became the first nation to win equestrian team gold and individual gold and silver medals. The U.S. gold medal squad that also included Kent Farrington of Wellington, Florida, on Uceko assured the nation a berth at the Olympics in London next year when they will attempt to win their third straight Olympic gold. Beezie and McLain were on the teams that won gold in Athens in 2004 and Hong Kong in 2008. The individual final was limited to three combinations from any one nation.
For the U.S. equestrian teams, these Pan Ams were their best ever in terms of medals won. The dressage riders won the team gold and all individual medals, eventing won team gold and silver and bronze individual medals while team gold and individual gold and silver went to the jumping squad. That left only individual gold in eventing and individual bronze in jumping to go to other nations.
The Pan Ams are a qualifying competition for the Olympics in the following year. This year, the U.S. Mexico and Chile qualified a team for London. Brazil and Canada qualified a team at last year’s World Equestrian Games. Argentina and Colombia each qualified for two individual slots and Bermuda one for the 2012 Games.
A sad note was that Canada’s Ian Miller, who has a record nine medals from nine Pan Ams, and Star Power did not return for the second final round although they were in fifth place. The horse stumbled badly in the first round and hit his shoulder making it too sore to come out for the second round.
The Pan Am team and individual gold won by Christine was a feat last accomplished by Ian in 1987.
Asked about her nerves in the close competition, Christine said: “Luckily for me nerves are a good thing. They keep me up so I can’t be a slacker. I can be less keyed up, but I was nervous in a good way. Nerves are just not that important. I knew what I needed to do. I was happy it ended up the way it ended up. The nerves weren’t too bad.”
Beezie and Via Volo were last to go in the entire equestrian competition and looked like sure gold medalists as they headed to the last jump. “I knew the time was very tight,” said Beeze who had led the competition from the start without a fault to this point. “I opted to go seven strides. It was a choice made in a split second. One less stride would have done it. The time was off by a 0.07 seconds. Maybe it was the right c hoice, maybe it was the wrong choice. It cost me a lot but thank God we have a strong team here and thank God it was an American to take the gold. With team gold it has been a great week.”
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