BY ERIN GILMORE
The winners are always the happiest bunch at a show. At a championship, they are even easier to find. Here in Lima, Peru at the Pan American Games, each nation has an official uniform in the colors of their flag—some more obvious than others. For instance, every member of Team Brazil wears a head-to-toe, bright green and gold tracksuit. The only variation is if they’re actually riding, in which case the tracksuit bottoms are swapped for breeches. And of course, a green hunt coat.
These colors made for a green and gold mass celebration when their third-to-last rider secured the team gold with a clear round. I promise, you’ve never seen joy like that of a Brazilian team who has just secured their Olympic qualification. And it should be said that 2nd-placed Team Mexico, which also qualified for Tokyo 2020, were equally as thrilled with their Team Silver medal.
With three disciplines held over 14 days, the dressage, show jumping and three-day-eventing do not overlap. When one ends, the next begins. Riders rotated in and out, with most of them catching a plane home the same night their competition ended. I get it. Many of the riders have businesses, families and other horses to get back to. And most of the time, one discipline doesn’t have a huge connection to the other—but not for Team Brazil. Among a day full of absolute unabashed joy, smiles, hugs, and some happy tears during the team show jumping final, that is what stood out to me the most.
The three day eventing riders had wrapped up their competition several days earlier. Ruy Fonseca, Brazil’s most senior rider suffered the worst cross country fall of the day, breaking his shoulder and three ribs in a rotational fall (despite his elimination Brazil still won a medal without a drop score.) The eventers had every reason to be out of there and on the way home, but they stayed to support their show jumping counterparts. Fonseca, fresh out of the hospital, returned to the venue to cheer on Team Brazil show jumpers on Wednesday, his arm in a sling. When show jumper Rodrigo Lambre crossed the finish timers clear, Brazil’s three day eventer, Carlos Parro, was part of the group hug on the kiss and cry.
Show me another nation that supports each other to this level! During a crazy week of depressing news events in both the horse world and the real one, this level of cross-discipline sportsmanship was the best thing to see.
By the way, Brazil had a tall order to fill at the Pan Am Games, with all three of their teams needing to finish on the podium in order to qualify for Tokyo. The Pan Ams, which are held every four years in the Pre-Olympic year, are often the last chance at qualification. And they did it—with Team Bronze in dressage, Team Silver in eventing, and Team Gold in show jumping.
The show jumping individual final takes place on Friday, August 9th. Brazil’s Pedro Veniss is in individual gold medal position with his amazing partner Quabri d’Isle, with Canada’s Erynn Ballard in 2nd with Fellini S. USA’s Beezie Madden and Breitling LS dropped to 6th after two unusual rails, but with two more rounds to jump on Friday, anything can still happen. Check with ESPN 3 for a livestream, and follow live results at this link.