16 July - Eventing gets underway tomorrow, while Jumping riders and horses will be arriving over the weekend ahead of their first test next Tuesday at Caledon Pan-American Equestrian Park in Toronto, Canada where the Pan-American Games 2015 equestrian events continue through to Saturday 25 July.

At the inaugural Pan-American Games staged in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1951, Eventing took place at the famous Cavalry School of Campo de Mayo where the host country claimed both gold medals along with individual silver. Jumping was held at the River Plate Stadium where Chile’s Capt Alberto Larraguibel on Julepe clinched double-gold in front of a crowd of over 60,000 spectators. The passion for equestrian sport in the region hasn’t waned ever since, and both the Eventing and Jumping disciplines are expected to draw big crowds over the next 10 days.

In Jumping, 58 athletes from 16 nations and a total of 10 teams will contest the medals, and the two highest-ranked eligible nations not already qualified will book their tickets to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. There are also six individual Olympic slots on offer.

With Brazil automatically qualified as host, and the USA also through due to their bronze-medal-winning performance at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2015 in Normandy it leaves the door wide open for many other keen countries including the powerful host-nation side.

It will be a home run for 44-year-old Yann Candele who lives in Caledon and has been selected with the 15-year-old Showgirl for his Pan-Am debut. And it will also be a first-time Pan-Am experience for Tiffany Foster who will celebrate her 31st birthday in 10 days time when she will partner Tripple X. Eric Lamaze is a Pan-Am veteran, having competed in four previous editions during which he collected team silver, team bronze and individual bronze medals. The 2008 Olympic champion was nominated with three possible rides, but has finally been listed with the 10-year-old stallion Coco Bongo. Elizabeth Gingras has also been named with Zilversprings but the man who will hold centre stage when the Jumping action gets underway is one of the greatest legends of the sport - Ian Millar who, at 68 years of age, will line out with Dixson.

It’s not without good reason that he has long been nick-named “Captain Canada”, leading his troops into many a successful battle and always flying his country’s flag with huge pride. The two-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping title-holder, whose career with the great Big Ben has earned him a special place in the heart and history of both Canadian and world sport, claimed Olympic team silver in 2008 and holds the record for most Olympic appearances of any athlete, notching up his tenth at London 2012. His successful record in the Pan-American Games goes all the way back to 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he took team silver and individual bronze riding Brother Sam. He took double-gold in Indianapolis (USA) in 1970 and individual gold in Winnipeg (CAN) in 1999 and is an 11-time National Champion.

Put that to rights

At the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 last summer however, Candele, Foster, Millar and Lamaze had to settle for eighth place and well outside the Olympic qualification zone so they will be hoping to put that to rights next week. In the race for an Olympic slot, they are likely to face strong opposition from the Colombians who finished just two places behind them in France. Daniel Bluman, Fernando Cardenis, Rene Lopez, Andres Penalosa and Roberto Teran Tafur could be tough nuts to crack, while strong selections from Argentina and Venezuela could also present a challenge.

The Brazilians look major contenders for a podium placing with Felip Amaral, Eduardo Menezes, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli, Pedro Veniss and Rodrigo Pessoa to choose from for their four-member side. They took team silver last time around in Guadalajara, but there is no denying the effort it will take to overpower the defending champions from the USA. With Georgina Bloomberg, Kent Farrington, Lauren Hough, Todd Minikus and McLain Ward all on call-up they are likely to be the ones all the rest have to beat in the battle for gold. Farrington and Ward both stood on the top step of that 2011 podium, and from the moment Jumping begins next Tuesday it promises to be a right royal regional battle for the 2015 Pan-American Jumping titles.

Ahead of the first phase of the Eventing discipline tomorrow at Caledon Park, FEI Olympic and Eventing Director, Catrin Norinder, said today, “the Pan-American Games are not only an important route to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for some countries, but are also a tremendous developmental opportunity for equestrian sportsmen and women across the North America and Central & South America regions. I wish them all the best of luck, and I believe we can look forward to tremendous sport over the coming days.”

 The list of definite entries for Eventing can be found here, and for Jumping here.

source: Fei press release

omage: Canadian legend, Ian Millar, will fly the host nation flag when Jumping gets underway at the Pan-American Games 2015 in Caledon Park, Toronto, Canada next week. (FEI/Ken Braddick)