I keep clicking my heels together but it’s not working. I just can’t get back to our Oasis in the land where the margaritas roam and the skies are not cloudy all day. On the upside, one dog, one horse and one cat are very happy to have us back.  I’ve been on a lot of trips in my life, and I have learned that the memory of one place can fade much more quickly than that of another. Guadalajara is going to linger pretty vividly for a while I think, for the very reason that my Pan Am blog was perhaps a bit boring compared to other adventures. It all just went so well. Bad experiences make for better story telling, but good experiences make for happy memories to keep one warm as the cold Vancouver drizzle descends.

Happy colours at Lake Chapala

Of course it wasn’t all cookies and cream. The Canadian show jumpers were just one category above sucking. Four years ago in Rio they won team silver, individual gold AND individual bronze. A month ago I wrote a post titled ‘Has America lost its Mojo?’ I feel a bit like maybe I should rework and redirect that question toward our own team – the only discipline to come home with no medals at all. I was as happy for the Mexicans winning their bronze medal in front of a home crowd as I was disappointed not to have better news to write for the magazines here at home. Thank goodness we had Pedro to keep our spirits up.

Jenn Ward with Pedro Cibulka, impersonating Olaf Peterson, who as Bermudian chef d'equipe sported his trademark bushy brows and red Bermuda shorts at the horse inspections

It was a strange week for Canada, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Since when does Captain L’Amazing go clear in zero out of five rounds? He was the only team member not to leave all the jumps up, not even once. Jill and George didn’t get their groove on until it was too late – both for the team and for herself individually. She did make the top 25, but no nation can send more than three team members into the individual final, which put her in the stands instead of in the saddle. I thought Showgirl jumped a real treat – but who would have thought that neither Eric nor Ian would be in medal contention individually?  Ian WAS in medal contention until Star Power had his big stumble between an oxer and the water. Those of you who have read my blog from past major events know the softest spot in my heart has never been reserved for Captain Canada, who makes himself as unapproachable to the media as it’s possible to do without hiring goons. But watching Ian and that amazing  horse recover in the couple of seconds they had before the water was at their feet, to see Ian recompose and jump the rest of the round clear, was nothing short of an inspiring example of pure skill and perfect instinct. For those of you who don’t read press releases, Ian withdrew from the second round after realizing his horse was not 100% after the stumble. I hope Star Power wasn’t seriously injured, and that he gets another chance at fame in London next year.

Jonathan Assslin, setting a fine example for son Ben

The time penalty situation in the individual final (more than half the field had  time penalties  in BOTH rounds)  was a source of some criticism from people more in the know about show jumping than I; but I actually believe Javier Fernandez committed a bigger designing sin by creating a trap in the first round that caused half the horses to have the first element of the triple combination down. That’s too many good horses hitting the same fence, if you ask me.

The time crunch cost Beezie her individual gold medal (by 7/100ths of a second) but she seemed most unperturbed by that loss in the final press conference.  In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her so full of laughs. She’s never been what you’d call a demonstrative person – I remember after she won individual silver at WEG in Aachen, she said it was a ‘pretty good’ result, and barely cracked a half-smile.  Maybe it was Pedro Cibulka’s awesome outfits that had her so mirthful after winning silver instead of gold.

If Javier’s course designs provoked ire from those who know what he might have done instead of making everyone hit the same jump and get time penalties, I personally found the real weak link of the show jumping to be the announcer. I had plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish on this trip, and I know it wasn’t a bad ear that heard her announce different times and penalties for the same rider in Spanish compared to English. And several times during the individual, she said ‘just the one rail’ when someone had one fence down. Yes honey, just the one rail and a quick Snakes and Ladders downward slide on the leaderboard.

Tooth pick or tower?

The last jump in the last round on the last day was a hand over fence to Toronto 2015. I hope the actual 2015 Games aren’t as lame as the dinky little CN Tower replica on that jump. Also lame was Toronto’s contribution to the closing ceremonies on Sunday. Closing Ceremonies are never the lush affair that opening ceremonies are, but the handful of Canadian dancers scattered around the stage was underwhelming in the extreme. You can’t expect to make a big impact in a 50,000 seat soccer stadium with nothing but a few bodies in red tights. I had the impression Toronto maybe didn’t realize they were expected to perform in the ceremonies at all, and threw a few dancers on a flight at the last minute…

So that’s it for the XVI Pan Am Games. A few hints dropped during the too-long speeches at the closing ceremonies suggested that Guadalajara is working itself up to bid for the Olympics one day soon. If they get them, I’ll be there with bells on.