A week from this evening my husband Jan and I will be winging our way through the darkness – destination Guadalajara. This will be my second Pan Am Games and I’m anticipating a grand adventure. Just like with Rio four years ago, most equestrian writers and photographers are shying away from the spice, exoticism and faint aroma of danger surrounding a trip to Latin America. I received a list of all the Canadian press who are going to these Pan Ams in total, all sports, and there are only 21 names on it. That’s not even close to one person for every sport. I might call the stay-at-homes pussies, but I’ll stick to the reason I’m going, and not the reason no one else is. I happen to adore Mexico, and Guadalajara is a long way from the northern border with the US, one section of which has been recently described as the ‘world’s most dangerous urban area outside a declared war zone’. The drivers in Mexico are still likelier to kill me than armed drug dealers or their thugs. I’m not absolutely sure I’m going to take in the opening ceremonies, however. If the drug devils decide to make a big Pan American splash with some wanton violence, they won’t find more potential victims in one place than there. I think it’s time to change the subject.
As always, I love to make predictions about the outcome of a major championship that I plan to attend. So I have dusted the cat and dog hair off the ball I keep under the book shelves and gazed into it so long my eyes crossed. Here is what I am ready to predict:
The most important goal for Canada’s dressage team is to gain an Olympic qualification, which can be achieved with any colour of medal. The Americans already qualified at WEG, so we don’t need to worry too much about the fact that Steffen and Heather are on the two highest scoring small tour horses in NA since, oh I don’t know, ever? Even if we ignore the stratospheric scores they were given at their selection trials (hint to Canadian judges at selection trials: it wouldn’t hurt to loosen up just a little), they are going to be tough to knock off the top of the scoreboard – and that makes team gold more than a little bit of a good bet for the US. However, we do have four extremely groovy and talented pairs on our team. My prediction is silver for Canada, which is historically the norm for the Pan Am dressage competition – but I will stick my neck out a little and say we could see some interesting battles for the individual medals. And who will win team bronze? Not quite so easy to predict. I know a couple of the Brazilian horses and they are some mighty fine, well ridden specimens. And of course we have the home team, a pretty seasoned lot that includes Brilliant Berna, whose past successes speak for themselves. I predict the battle for bronze is where the contest will be the most cliff-hanging in the dressage.
The Canadian eventers are considerably better off going into these Pan Ams than they were back in 2007. Four years ago Canada needed a medal to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, but thanks to our Canada-kicks-silver-medal-ass WEG 2010 team, that mission has already been accomplished. This time DOC and the selectors had the luxury of being able to choose real two star horses that are the probable four star horses of the future – thereby building Canada’s base instead of taxing it. Oddly enough, the Canucks have a better than ever chance of beating the usual gold medalists, the Americans. Someone told me that Karen O’C pointed out during the Rebecca Farms two star that Canadians had won six out of seven two stars this year…I would bet on Canada for gold in the eventing if my luck in gambling weren’t likely to jinx them. And if Canada were to win gold it will be entirely because they beat the Americans into silver medal submission. Eventing is the least done discipline in the rest of the Americas, and I don’t even know which countries are planning to send full teams. But home teams tend to rise to the occasion, and I would be very surprised if the Mexicans don’t put in a good showing in this discipline.
Will Captain L’Amazing lead the Canadian jumpers to team gold? I think it’s entirely possible, though the jumpers are the most superstitious lot of all. Please don’t take this as a prediction so much as an expression of optimism. Like the eventers, the Canadian WEG show jumpers already got their Olympic qualification. In Rio four years ago, the shoe was on the other foot, with the Americans sending a fairly indifferent team (having already qualified for the Olympics) and the Canadians sending the big guns because they couldn’t afford not to medal. This time, we are still sending big guns, though on their next-generation horses – and the Americans, who still need to qualify for London? Well their team looked more impressive before Laura Kraut and Lauren Hough bowed out over the past two weeks. Still, it’s show jumping – the least predictable of the three disciplines. Brazil will be in there, and what I already said about the home team is likely to show up in the jumping too. There are some good individuals from other parts of the Americas, but I would be guessing to comment on their team chances.
And what are my predictions for the Pan Am experience in Mexico? First of all, excellent weather. Guadalajara (Guad from now on in the pages of this blog – that name is just too bloody long to type more than once a week) has reputedly the best climate in the world for playing tennis, which means it also has the best climate for just about any outdoor sport you choose to name. There will be chaos and some fudge ups, no doubt – but that’s not a Mexican thing. That’s a major international sporting event thing. All part of the adventure, I say.
I love Mexican food and beverages, so I also predict some happy meals (not Happy Meals), and am looking forward to seeing some of my freestyle friends from far away.