Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 23, 2007 -- Going into the third and final day of the eventing portion of the Pan American Games on July 22, the top three riders (all members of Team USA) were separated by less than two points.
When it was all over, Theodore O'Connor came out on top to win the individual gold. The powerful pony belied his 14.1 hands under rider Karen O'Connor and brought the American supporters to their feet in leading the U.S. team to gold as well.
Spring-heeled, 11-year-old "Teddy" had one rail down in the jumping phase, the second part of the two-stride combination at fence six, but both pony and rider maintained their composure and finished without further penalty and a score of 52.7.
"He's such a wonderful horse," O'Connor said. "A lot of people have put a lot of faith in him, and he has developed into a real top athlete regardless of his size."
Bred by P. Wynn Norman, who still has some ownership in him as part of the Theodore O'Connor Syndicate, the Thoroughbred/Arabian/Shetland cross has rewritten history with his prolific performance.
Stephen Bradley and Charlotte Harris' From laid the groundwork for the U.S. team. After an unfortunate mistake in the water jump on the cross-country left them out of individual medal contention, Bradley's experience around the Jorge Guilherme's show jumping track would be a safety net if any of the other three team riders had a disaster.
The 14-year-old Russian Thoroughbred gelding looked somewhat weary from his efforts on Saturday and had three rails down to finish in 13th place.
"He definitely felt tired," said Bradley. "He was struggling a little bit in the warm-up, so I knew we were in trouble when we went into the ring. He still tried really hard, and I was really proud of him even if it wasn't meant to be this weekend."
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh had the fastest time of the day during cross-country. The 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse was in a tie for fourth with Canadian Kyle Carter, but Carter was closer to the optimum time on the cross-country. It ended up not making a difference after Carter had two rails down and two time faults with Madison Park. Riding as part of the team, Miles guided McKinlaigh around the arena as if the track was half the size.
Owned by Thomas Schulz and Laura Coats, McKinlaigh jumped a clean round to win the individual bronze medal. They finished on their dressage score of 56.3, the only combination of the entire competition to do so.
Riding as an individual, Darren Chiacchia, the reigning individual gold medalist from the 2003 Pan American Games, had four fences down with Adrienne Iorio's Better I Do It and dropped from third to fifth.
Phillip Dutton, riding under the U.S. flag for the first time, was in second after cross-country on the strength of a clean and fast round with Truluck. Dutton jumped a textbook clean round Sunday on the rangy Thoroughbred, but picked up four time faults in the process to win the silver medal on a score of 53.8.
Still somewhat inexperienced, the 10-year-old gelding owned by Ann Jones and Shannon Stimson, continues to improve.
The team of Bradley, Dutton, Miles and O'Connor comfortably won a third consecutive team gold medal for the U.S. finishing on a score of 162.8 over Canada's 211.1. To the delight of the Brazilian fans, their team took home a bronze medal on a score of 235.6 and finished all six of their horses, two of which jumped clean.
Equestrian competition at the Pan American Games continues on July 26 with show jumping.