USA Hopes to Rewrite Pan Am Dressage History Again

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Will these three U.S. combinations of Marisa Festerling on Big Tyme, Steffen Peters on Weltino's Magic and Heather Blitz on Paragon, be making the victory gallop with individual medals around their necks? © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, Oct. 18–With an historic Pan American Games team gold medal to their credit, the United States is aiming to write more history Wednesday by becoming the first nation to win all three individual dressage medals when the Intermediaire Freestyle wraps up the first of three equestrian sports.

And the other 12 horse and rider combinations from six nations–Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela– will be looking to crash the “Dream Team” party.

None of the three U.S. pairs that have made it to the final 15 in the freestyle–the fourth American attained the scores but the rules limit the number of combinations from a nation to three–have been here before as they are all rookies in this, the largest sporting event in the world except behind only the Olympic Games.

The three U.S. combinations finished first, second and fourth individually in the opening day’s Prix St. Georges and then a straight sweep of the top three places in the Intermediaire that was the first of two phases of the individual contest.

Although the term rookie applies to Steffen Peters in the Pan Ams, the fact is the medals he wins here go alongside a treasure trove of Olympic and World Equestrian Games team and individual medals, a World Cup title and championships at both big and small tours at the globe’s premier equestrian event, the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany .

For the German-born Steffen who relishes life in sunny California’s San Diego and does not hide the fact his heart beats in tune to the Star Spangled Banner he was as excited to bring Weltino’s Magic to these continental Games as any other since he his first Olympics for the U.S. in 1996.

Heather Blitz of Wellington, Florida, and her Paragon, still a gangly kid at the age of eight but who grew to 18 hands to be perfectly matched to the rider that helped him stand on his feet when he was born, has basked in the atmosphere of her first championship. Before this, her goals were so fixated on the Olympics next year that coming to Guadalajara was almost a distraction. No more. The experience. team spirit and their impact on the development of her and Paragon, she admits, have been enormous and in retrospect she would not miss it for the world.

Marisa Festerlingof Moorpark, California, and her Big Tyme have blossomed in the gorgeously sunny days at the Guadalajara Country Club. Her first team championship seems to be a coming of age for which the mother of a baby girl has been working toward. She’s no stranger to the big time (as distinct from Big Tyme) as she competed the horse as a youngster in the World Breeding Championships at Verden, Germany, a competition that has its own special character. Her ever-present smile and “I’m so happy to be here having a great time” attitude is infectious among many in the crowd who have their own teams to root for.

While the U.S. came into these championships with expectations of team gold and two of the three individual medals, competitors from other nations are every bit as hungry to be on the medals podium Wednesday night. No national pride at stake, simple individual glory.

Several combinations finished within about three percentage points of Marisa and, horses being horses and gumans being humans, who knows what can happen.

Tom Dvorak and Viva's Salieri W. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Canadian Pan Am Games veteran Tom Dvorak on Viva’s Salieri W came within almost a percentage point of Marisa in the Intermediaire despite going off course and incurring the loss of marks as a result.

Olympian Bernadette Pujals has turned in performances in the top group on ISUA Rolex and the draws an outpouring of vocal and emotional support from the home crowd .

Then there are two Colombians emboldened by their team bronze medal that gives them their first ever invite to an Olympics to be held in London about nine months from now.

Newcomer Constanza Jaramillo on the Ulla Salzgeber-trained Wakana led her squad to the team medal and was third individually in the Prix St. Georges.

Veteran Marco Bernal on Farewell IV on whom he won three gold medals at the Central American Games in 2010. He is a Pan Am Games team silver medalist from 1999 and competed at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the 2009 World Cup Final.

A medal for Bernadette Pujals on IUSA Rolex would be a celebration for the Mexican crowd. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Offiial start list for Intermediaire Freestyle individual final with first round Intermediaire I scores. Start time is Mexican Central Time/-5:00 GMT

E ARG ARMANDO Gabriel
H FRA SALEH Raphael
C GBR CLARKE Stephen
M USA FORE Lilo
B CAN WHITHAM Cara
Start
Order
Rider Horse Start Time Int.I
%Score Rk
1 MEX RIVERA Antonio NAVAL 15:00
67.184
(14)
2 DOM LOSOS DE MUÑIZ Ivonne DONDOLO MARISMAS 15:10
70.342
(12)
3 MEX ZAYRIK Omar LORD 15:20
67.895
(13)
4 BRA CLEMENTINO Rogerio SARGENTO DO TOP 15:30
66.974
(15)
5 VEN GOMEZ Alejandro REVENGE 15:40
66.737
(17)
6 COL JARAMILLO Constanza WAKANA 15:50
71.211
(7)
7 COL BERNAL Marco FAREWELL 16:00
71.105
(8)
8 CAN IRWIN Tina WINSTON 16:10
70.842
(10)
9 BRA PEREIRA JUNIOR Mauro TULUM COMANDO SN 16:40
70.711
(11)
10 CAN KROETCH Crystal LYMRIX 16:50
71.000
(9)
11 MEX PUJALS Bernadette IUSA ROLEX 17:00
72.605
(5)
12 USA FESTERLING Marisa BIG TYME 17:10
74.316
(3)
13 USA BLITZ Heather Anderson PARAGON 17:20
77.184
(2)
14 CAN DVORAK Thomas VIVA’S SALIERI W 17:30
73.079
(4)
15 USA PETERS Steffen WELTINO’S MAGIC 17:40
78.079
(1)