Nicole Walker Jumps to Hard-Fought Fourth at Lima 2019 Pan Am Games
Equestrian Canada – Aug. 9, 2019, Lima, PER – Nicole Walker, 26, of Aurora, ON closed out her debut major games with a hard-fought fourth following a jump-off for bronze in the individual final for show jumping at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games in Peru on Aug. 9.
Show jumping wrapped up the equestrian portion of Lima 2019 with the two-round individual final that featured the toughest tracks yet and culminated with a nail-biter for the bronze medal after a four-way tie forced a jump-off. Gold had already been secured by Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and Sirene de la Motte on a perfect score of zero, with silver going to José Maria Larocca of Argentina, who finished with a single time fault riding Finn Lente.
After lowering just one rail in the initial round, and returning to post a clear in round two aboard her 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, Falco van Spieveld (Toulon x Lys De Darmen), Walker was tied on four faults with Americans, Beezie Madden and Eve Jobs, and Eugenio Garza Perez of Mexico. Interestingly, the jump-off was a battle of experience versus youth with the legendary two-time Olympic gold medalist, Madden, 55, facing off against three rising stars in their 20s.
Madden was the first to return over a shortened version of the round two course – featuring 11 efforts with plenty of chances to slice turns and gallop between fences in the quest to obtain the fastest jump-off time. A clear performance with Breitling LS in 42.47 seconds made her the one to beat.
Second out, Walker laid down a strong performance, stopping the clock in 44.18 seconds with a light rub at the ‘a’ portion of a double combination adding four faults for fourth. She hung on to her impressive position after American, Eve Jobs had two rails aboard Venue d’Fees des Hazalles, and Mexico’s Eugenio Garza Perez risked a difficult angle to save time to jump two, resulting in a refusal and subsequent retirement aboard Armani Sl Z.
“It was definitely not an easy course in the first round or the second round,” explained Walker, whose sole rail came at the fence that was knocked down continually in the first round – the ‘a’ portion of a skinny double combination of 1.60m verticals that followed the open water jump. “And, when you have Beezie you are trying to catch, that’s never easy – so I thought, ‘I’m just going to give it my best and go as fast as I can,’ and I’m very proud of my horse.”
Walker, who is the current Canadian Show Jumping Champion with Falco van Spieveld, continued, “I’ve had most of my career highlights on Falco. He’s the only one I’ve ever ridden on the senior team. We have such a strong bond; I think we just really trust each other, and he gives me the confidence to do those tight turns and jump those big jumps. It’s definitely been a week to remember.”
Nicole Walker and Falco van Spieveld
After leading the Canadian Show Jumping Team to a fourth place finish and therefore a berth to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with three consecutive clear rounds, Ballard was standing second individually at the close of the team competition. However, the 32 horse-rider combinations invited forward to contest the individual final (further whittled down to 23 for the second round) started on a clean slate, with all scores wiped.
Riding Fellini S (Vermont x Rash R), a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Ilan Ferder, Ballard set off in the first round, tackling the 12 jumps and 15 efforts set by Brazilian Course Designer, Guilherme Jorge (FEI 4*). No part of the course could be taken for granted and just four would prove to jump clear. However, there were a few spots that proved especially difficult – the open water to a skinny double combination at 10 and 11ab that caught Walker, and a vertical at jump seven, positioned at a bending line after the triple combination, and set flush against the VIP pavilion.
Rails fell at both spots for Ballard and Fellini S, bringing their score to eight faults. Round two saw the duo improve to four faults, lowering just one of the additional 12 efforts asked of the finalists – a liverpool vertical that was the second component of a line requiring a massive jump in over a square oxer. In fact, the oxer was another obstacle that hit the dirt repeatedly throughout both rounds, and while the pair jumped it clean, the effort caught up with them six strides later at the delicate vertical. This brought their cumulative score to 12 faults to finish 13th overall.
“I have to say, I’m not disappointed in my horse at all,” said Ballard, 38, who will next be gunning for a spot aboard Fellini S in Tokyo. “For a nine-year-old and his fourth and fifth time in this week, his energy felt good. The course was much bigger and more technical today, so it’s a big challenge. We ask a lot of these horses, but we walk away from this feeling like we’re ready for what’s next, so overall it’s very positive.”
Erynn Ballard and Fellini S
Canadian Olympian and team anchor, Deslauriers, 54, also made it through to both rounds of the individual final, riding Amsterdam 27. The 17th entry into the stadium in the first round, it would take until the 23rd in the order (silver medalist Larocca) before the crowd saw a clear, with Deslauriers and Amsterdam 27 being added to the list of victims at fences 11a and 12.
“After the water is two tall verticals; we’re going downhill a little bit, and they are skinnier than the other rails,” explained Deslauriers, speaking to why 11ab proved so challenging. “It’s always a hard test for a horse to (come back so quickly after the water), and going downhill to a skinny you can see more experienced horses settle, wait, and focus. Younger ones are not there yet. But, my horse felt good today and jumped well. I think he is learning a lot here.”
In round two, Deslauriers and Amsterdam had a heartbreaker rail at the final fence on course, a vertical celebrating the next Pan Am Games set for 2023 in Santiago, CHI, and went just over the time allowed for a total of five faults. This put their final placing just a few spots behind Ballard in 15th on a total of 13 faults.
“I think we were all well mounted and we had a good team here,” said Deslauriers, speaking to the overall performance of the Canadians throughout the week, including teammate, Lisa Carlsen, 54, of Okotoks, AB who contributed strong performances to the team competition aboard Parette (Passoa VDL x Barinello), her 13-year-old Brandenburg mare.
Deslauriers concluded, “Today we had three in the final and we all jumped well. So, I think we come out of here gaining good experience and we can step it up for Tokyo.”
Mario Deslauriers and Amsterdam 27
Photo Credit: © Cealy Tetley – www.tetleyphoto.com
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