July 16, 2007 --- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - In the first round of individual dressage competition at the XV Pan American Games, equestrian athlete Tom Dvorak of Hillsburgh, ON, lies in fourth position, only 1.4 points behind the leader, Christopher Hickey of the United States. Fellow Canadians Diane Creech of Caistor Centre, ON, and Andrea Bresee of Brockville, ON, are in seventh and ninth place, respectively. All three riders are qualified for the Individual Final on Wednesday, July 18.
In Monday's first round of individual competition, the FEI Intermediaire I test, Andrea Bresee, 32, of Brockville, ON, was the first rider into the arena for Canada. Riding Raffles, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare owned by Gina Smith and Faith Berghuis, Bresee began with a dynamic test but Raffles had an unfortunate stumble in the extended trot at the end of the ride. Combined with some small problems in the canter work, she finished with a score 64.40% to leave her in the same position as in the team test, ninth place overall.
"I donâ€™t know what happened," said Bresee of the stumble. She is looking forward to riding in the Individual Final on Wednesday where riders perform the Intermediaire Freestyle, a series of required movements choreographed to the music of their choice. Of her first major games experience, Bresee noted, "this has been a great experience. The team is also great, and we all get along really well."
As the fourth to last competitor, Dvorak guided Beaumarchais, a 13-year-old Hannoverian gelding owned by Susan Holden, through a trot tour that was the strongest of the competition but experienced difficulty in the walk and canter work. A score of 67.90% was good enough to put Dvorak, 41, into fourth place and within striking distance of an individual medal on Wednesday.
"I had lots of gas in the engine today," explained Dvorak. "Historically, when he is 'hot' the trot goes well but the walk is hard to channel, and heâ€™s so powerful in the canter that when heâ€™s strong I canâ€™t always control the energy."
Only 1.4 points off the lead, Dvorak will be riding for a medal in the Intermediaire Freestyle. "I think the doors are open for a small group of us, and Iâ€™m really excited about Wednesday."
Creech, 44, was the final Canadian and the second last competitor on Monday. Riding Wiona, Doug and Louise Leatherdaleâ€™s 10-year-old Hannoverian mare, Creech displayed a high quality trot tour but a mistake in the flying changes every two strides proved to be costly. The result was a score of 65.80% and a placing of seventh.
"Our coach, Norbert van Laak, had me make a few changes in my warm-up today," said Creech. "Wiona was better than yesterday when I went into the ring, and it was just unfortunate that I had the mistake in the two tempi changes. All in all I was really happy with her. Sheâ€™s a real trier and she has a huge heart."
Of the top 15 horses that advance to Wednesday's Individual Final following a day of rest on Tuesday, only four improved on their performances from the team test. The biggest jump in standings came from Argentinaâ€™s Vera Protzen who, riding Kadirmo, leapt from 13th to fifth place. All three Canadians remain in the top ten. With a score of 69.35%, American Christopher Hickey has a tiny lead over the 2003 Bronze Medalist, Yvonne Losos de MuÃ±iz of the Dominican Republic, who earned 69.30%. Winner of the Prix St. Georges team test, Lauren Sammis of the United States, is currently in third position with a score of 68.55%.
The top 15 horse and rider pairs from the Intermediaire I test compete on Wednesday in the Intermediaire Freestyle, the results of which are combined with those from the Intermediaire I test to determine the Individual medals. The format of the Intermediaire Freestyle can easily be compared to figure skating. Riders are required to demonstrate a set of required technical movements within a five-minute time limit, and the program is set to music and choreography of each riderâ€™s choosing. It is the only phase of dressage competition that contains an artistic element. The technical performance is weighted approximately twice as much as the artistic impression by the panel of five international judges.
Olympic Berth for Canada
Sundayâ€™s Team Silver Medal guaranteed the Canadian Dressage Team a berth at the 2008 Olympics. Only 10 countries qualify to send dressage teams to Hong Kong, where equestrian events of the Olympic Games will be held due to equine health risks in Beijing. The United States had already qualified for the Olympics by earning a bronze medal at the 2006 World Equestrian Games and was therefore not included in the awarding of the two berths in Rio de Janeiro. They were given to the next-best placed teams, Canada and Brazil, winners of the Team Bronze Medal.
Chef de Mission for the Canadian Equestrian Team, Michael Gallagher, said, "our goal from day one was to come here and be in the top two to qualify Canada for the 2008 Olympic Games, and the team did that in grand style."
Canada will continue its hunt for Olympic berths through Pan Am competition in the disciplines of eventing and show jumping.
2007 Pan American Games - Intermediaire I Results - First of Two Individual Competitions
Rider Country Horse Score
1. Christopher Hickey United States Regent 69.35%
2. Yvonne Losos de MuÃ±iz Dominican Republic Bernstein Las Marismas 69.30%
3. Lauren Sammis United States Sagacious 68.55%
4. Tom Dvorak Canada Beaumarchais 67.90%
5. Vera Protzen Argentina Kadirmo 66.90%
6. Katherine Poulin-Neff United States Brilliant Too 66.35%
7. Diane Creech Canada Wiona 65.80%
8. Jose Luis Padilla Mexico Lohengrin 64.50%
9. Andrea Bresee Canada Raffles 64.45%
10. Christa Dauber Guatemala Serafino 64.05%
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"Tom Dvorak and Beaumarchais are in fourth position following the first individual competition at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil."
Photo Credit - Cealy Tetley, www.tetleyphoto.com