Team USA holds the lead after the opening day of Dressage at the Pan American Games 2023 in Quillota, Chile, but a super test from the last man into the ring, João Victor Marcari with Feel Good VO, saw Brazil overtake Canada for second place.
Marcari heads the individual leaderboard with the biggest score of the day, 76.478, while a personal-best of 76.065 leaves defending individual champion Sarah Tubman from the USA in second place with First Apple. Another Brazilian, Renderson Silva de Oliviera, is in third on a score of 75.304 with the famous Lusitano stallion Fogoso Campline. In fourth spot going into day two is America’s Anna Marek, who put 74.891 on the board with Fire Fly.
The team rankings are tight. USA is out in front on a collective score of 224.338 when the best three results are counted, while Brazil is just over three points behind on 221.151. Canada lies third on 214.277, the hosts from Chile are in fourth on 209.920, Mexico holds fifth place on 202.822, Argentina is in sixth on 201.609, and Colombia is in seventh spot on 197.205. With only three combinations from the outset, Ecuador is no longer in contention following the elimination of Caroline Espinosa and Findus K. However, fifth place in the individual rankings is held by Ecuador’s Julio Mendoza Loor and Jewel’s Goldstrike, while in sixth is the Small Tour combination of talented 21-year-old American Christian Simonson and the gelding Son of a Lady.
Marcari was thrilled to take individual pole position at the end of day one, but he is not getting carried away. “I didn’t really expect this!” he said. “I was expecting to bring another horse but I had to change last week, because the horse was not in the best shape, so I had to bring this horse which is my second option – I expected to do a clean test, help my team, maybe get a medal from the team, but not to win! I’m really happy, no words. I was crying after my test! I think I made my team proud, my trainer, my family and my country, and this is what matters!”
He wasn’t at all intimated by being the last rider into the arena. “I liked going at the end of the day. I was making a joke that I was first to go in the Olympics and now I’m last to go at the Pan American Games!” he said. When asked what he felt lay ahead, he replied that “everything is possible here; maybe we won’t get a medal, but I will still be happy. I achieved my objective today, but tomorrow is another day and anything can happen!” he concluded wisely.
Meanwhile, Tubman reflected on the test that helped lift the USA to top of the team leaderboard. When she took the individual title in Lima, Peru four years ago, she was still competing at Small Tour level. This Grand Prix result was all the more special for that.
“It’s really cool to have gone through this process. USA has given us such a great opportunity, coming last time (to the Games) with an entirely Small Tour team. I felt I was more prepared this time because I knew what to expect. I’ve been really lucky in the last three or four years to travel a lot and be on other teams. But every time you go into that ring, it’s the craziest butterfly feelings! So I’m just really proud of my horse. We’ve come a long way.
“It is not a small journey from Small Tour to Big Tour, so to be rewarded in such a big ring – I think that was my personal best for the Grand Prix. I’m really proud of myself!”
Dream come true
For third-placed Brazilian Silva de Oliveira, it was a dream come true. He started out in the horse world cleaning stables and the 31-year-old found himself putting his country within sight of achieving one of the two qualifying spots on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. He only competed in his first Grand Prix in February this year, but he has a very special horse in the plucky little stallion Fogoso Campline, who is doing everything to help him.
“I waited a long time for this moment in my life. I work hard every week and today my dream came true, and I am really happy!” he said. “It’s super to represent Brazil at the Pan American Games because it is my country, where for some people life is not easy, but the people there are very special,” he said.
“I started cleaning boxes and I worked really hard for a Brazilian rider who competed in the Pan American Games and Olympic Games. He said I can help you if you want and I said, yes, I want! He said you work and when you have time, I can teach you. I started, and in a few months, I had five or six horses and started competing in small (dressage) tests. This is now my life!
“It is super to ride Fogoso,” he said of the 13-year-old horse that was previously ridden by Portugal’s Rodrigo Torres. “I only started doing Grand Prix this year and now I’ve done seven. In the first I made mistakes and each time I tried to improve. In my mind I know the Pan American Games is coming and I have to make my best test. And this here was my best test!” he said, filled with joy.
His reaction when he realised he had executed his best-ever ride was to lean back in the saddle in the final halt and salute the crowd. They loved him for it. Now, like all the rest, he has to try to do it all again.
Results and startlists here.
by Louise Parkes