By Anna Williams - FEI
It was a clean sweep for Uruguay for the second year running at the FEI Pan-American Endurance Championships for Seniors, Young Riders & Juniors last weekend, when they took Team and Individual gold on home soil at the hippodrome in Trinidad, the capital city of Flores in southern Uruguay.
Chile claimed bronze in the Senior category and team silver in the Junior/Young Rider category, with Brazil completing the team medal line out with silver in the Senior Championship.
Uruguay, following their success last year, were aiming high from the very outset in order to retain their titles. The Senior and Junior/Young Rider Championships had a starting field of 21 horse and rider combinations apiece with representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, the USA and of course, last year's Champions Uruguay.
Following a recent conversion to a top-of-the-range Endurance facility, the hippodrome provided a great base for teams and horses alike. The President of the Ground Jury, Atilio Costa (ARG) officially opened the Championships on 27 September in a special ceremony attended by local dignitaries and spectators.
The Pan-American Championships is run over a distance of 120km and this year's course was made up of 4 loops, the last of which was repeated resulting in a 5 loop competition - always an advantage to those athletes with horses that present quickly in a vet gate. The course was fairly flat and covered predominantly country dirt roads with the occasional controlled highway crossing. The track took on the now familiar clover leaf structure with all loops arriving and departing on the original race track of the hippodrome.
The competition was certainly very tight in both categories, but as the day progressed, Uruguay ensured that victory would be theirs once again. The Senior Individual Championship, with a minimum riding weight of 75kg, was won by the young Uruguayan athlete Oriana Ricca aboard the eye-catching Amarillo HLM. Despite being only 17 years old, this talented rider is no stranger to Championship-level competition - she recently finished 4th in the Junior/Young Rider World Championships in Tarbes (FRA) and also won bronze in the 2011 World Championships. Whilst remaining within sight of the leaders all day, she waited until the latter stages of the race to move to the front. In doing so, she ensured that her 11-year-old stallion remained in 1st position on the final loop crossing the line 27 seconds in front of Argentine Gabriel Morgui and his 10-year-old mare HLP Astica. Bronze went to Uruguay as 10 minutes later the 9-year-old gelding JG Safi Zafra ridden by Nicolas Rodriguez Villamil crossed the line. Villamill scooped gold in the Junior/Young Rider Pan-American Championships last year, and must be very pleased with his seamless transition into the Senior Category.
With 3 combinations finishing in the top 5, Uruguay took team gold with ease in a total time of 17:13:01, well over one hour ahead of second-placed Brazil. Finally Chile, the only other nation to have three successful finishers, took bronze with a finishing time of 19:19:25.
The Junior/Young Rider Individual Championship was certainly closely fought with all three medal winners finishing within three and a half minutes of one another - all with a faster overall speed than their Senior counterparts. Uruguay reigned supreme once again taking the top two places with Maria Pereira and her bay mare SM Lady Adela crossing the line first just over 2 minutes ahead of compatriot Frederik Maidana aboard the 8-year-old JQ Zarial, despite them putting in the fastest last loop of the day at 29.53kph.
Pereira was also part of the Uruguayan contingent competing in Tarbes this summer. As an elite rider, Pereira is able to compete in Championships on horses with which she has not completed the qualification criteria as a combination. Her performance in Tarbes saw her finish 14th aboard British-based horse Lara Lark. Chile rounded up the podium with Paula Llorens and the 11-year-old gelding Sandek. This combination pose a formidable force having now finished every one of the international races they have started. This was the pair's 7th event together, and the first time they have not finished in 1st position.
Unfortunately, only two nations were able to successfully finish three combinations. Once again, Uruguay came out on top with an incredible overall time of just 15:56:55. Chile won their 2nd team medal of the Championships when winning silver in a very respectable total time of 17:33:56.
Gold: Uruguay (Oriana Ricca with Amarillo HLM / Nicolas Rodriguez Villamil with JQ Safi Zafra / Antonio Guillen with Misterio Molles - total time 17:13:01)
Silver: Brazil (Rafaela Moreira Barreto with Amyra EL Emir / Andre Vidiz with SM Bomberito / Leo Steinbruch with Halpern Endurance - total time - 18:35:56)
Bronze: Chile (David Ramirez with RP Bordolino / Lukas Buckel with IFO Kuma / Andre Alvarez with Ladino - total time 19:19:25)
Junior/Young Rider Team
Gold: Uruguay (Maria Pereira with SM Lady Adela / Frederik Maidana with JQ Zarial / Victoria Ferber with Yarara la Flechilla - total time 15:56:55)
Silver: Chile (Paula Llorens with Sandek / Benjamin Boetsch with Khadijah / Jose Antonio Vicente with Marquen - total time 17:33:56)
Gold: Oriana Ricca (URU) with Amarillo HLM - 22.71kph / 05:29:30
Silver: Gabriel Morgui (ARG) with HLP Astica - 22.68kph / 05:29:57
Bronze: Nicolas Rodriguez Villamil (URU) with JG Safi Zafra - 21.96kph / 05:40:41
Junior/Young Rider Individual
Gold: Maria Pereira (URU) with SM Lady Adela - 23.72kph / 05:15:29
Silver: Frederik Maidana (URU) with JQ Zarial - 23.55kph / 05:17:43
Bronze: Paula Llorens (CHI) with Sandek - 23.46kph / 05:18:55
Full results: http://race.sistracking.com.uy/index.php?lan=en
By Anna Williams - FEI