April 28, 2009 — Team USA put in a remarkable effort on the final phase at the 2009 Pan American Endurance Championships in Costa Azul, Uruguay to secure a team silver medal. They finished less than six minutes off the gold medal-winning pace of Argentina .
The American riders blazed through the final 15km phase: Cheryl van Deusen and on DA Al Capone (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) and Stephen Rojek on Savvy (South Woodstock , Vt.) completed the final leg in just 37 minutes. Valerie Kanavy and LM Francesa Pharr (Fort Valley , Va.) added to the effort with another strong final phase time and a sixth place Individual finish to secure a Team Silver medal.
The race was very close as the riders set off on the final phase, Team USA was just four minutes ahead of the Guatemalan Team and 25 minutes behind Argentina . The US riders made up considerable ground.
“We needed the riders to pick up the pace to assure a medal and the riders responded by turning in a phase speed of just under 16 miles per hour,” said Chef d’Equipe Becky Hart. “The combined experience of not only the riders, but the crews, Team Veterinarian, and Team Staff contributed greatly to the overall result. This win was a true team effort.”
Gabrielle Mann and CM Big Easy (Bolinas , Ca.) served in the key anchor position in their first international competition. They delivered on their position and provided a security score in case one of the other members was unable to complete the competition. Her completion meant that the US Team was assured of at least the bronze, and allowed for a more aggressive strategy.
“Three of the American horses had to travel a long distance, and arrived with only a short time to prepare before the event. The horses and athletes adapted well to the short prep schedule and performed extremely well on a course that was quite different than what is common in the US . The result was a good performance,” said Team Veterinarian Jim Bryant. “They should be congratulated for the effort.”