The US eventing team followed in its dressage counterpart’s footsteps to win gold at the Pan American Games in Ontario, Canada, last Sunday (19 July), earning its spot in the 2016 Olympics.
Adding to that achievement, team member Marilyn Little took individual gold riding RF Scandalous.
The Pan Ams were the first senior international team outing as an eventer for Marilyn, previously a showjumper before adding eventing to her repertoire five years ago.
“It’s indescribable,” she said. “It’s a very exciting day for all of us, and for all the people who made it possible for it to happen.”
Ruy Fonseca of Brazil, leading the individual standings after both dressage and cross-country on Tom Bombadill Too, had the final fence down to elevate Marilyn from second with her score of 40.3 as he dropped to third with 42.9 penalties.
The defending titleholder, Jessica Phoenix of Canada on Pavarotti, earned the silver with 42.1 penalties.
The US led the two-star competition from the beginning, widening its margin from 0.7 penalties over Canada following dressage to 7.7 penalties over Brazil as the event ended.
Canada slipped to bronze when British-based Canadian Kathryn Robinson fell at the second fence on cross-country with Let It Bee and it had to count the scores of all three remaining team members.
The final totals were 133 penalties for the US, which had all of its riders in the top 10; 140.7 for Brazil and 163 for Canada. Both Brazil and Canada have already secured their Olympic spots.
David O’Connor, who took over as US coach following the team’s seventh-place finish in the 2012 Olympics, called the victory “an exceptional effort”.
“It shows that a system like this, that’s built a little bit on belief — belief in each other and huge respect for each other — really can win in the end,” he said.
The victory followed a similar outcome a week earlier for the US dressage team, which qualified for Rio with a team gold, while Steffen Peters took individual honours