TORONTO -- With a spot at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on the line, Team USA was able to clinch the gold medal in the team dressage Sunday at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Team USA earned a score of 460.506, followed by Canada with 454.938 and Brazil with 414.895.
The win was not easy, however, thanks to impressive performances by the host country in the first round Saturday.
“I was extremely worried yesterday morning,” Peters said. “The Canadians did a wonderful job. They rode extremely well, especially the first two tests yesterday. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that we might not be going to the Olympics. It kept me fired up enough to put in the performance that we did.”
The Americans understood the magnitude of the event and were prepared heading into the second day of competition. “It is a lot pressure knowing you have to win a gold or you won’t have an Olympic team. It’s my first team and the pressure was definitely intense,” Kim Herslow said.
“We’re under a lot of pressure here,” said Laura Graves, who competed third of the four Americans. “Canada’s really giving us a run for our money, which is exciting, but, on top of our normal stress level, can really push you over the edge.”
The United States began with a strong ride from Sabine Schut-Kery on her horse, Sanceo. Kim Herslow on Rosmarin earned a personal best with her test, taking home a score of 77.158.
“I’m so happy that I could do my personal best here and contribute that score to this day. I feel like I had the best expression I’ve ever had in that test. It’s incredible,” Herslow said.
Newcomer Laura Graves on Verdades earned the highest score of the day for the Americans with a 78.677.
“(Verdades) was really on today,” Graves said. “He just loves Toronto.”
Steffen Peters led Legolas 92 in an uncharacteristically difficult run, but heading into that final test, the United States was far enough ahead of Canada that no matter Peters’ score, Team USA would win the competition. The three-time Olympian scored 74.167.
Team USA finished with the peace of mind that it will contest for gold again at the 2016 Games.
“It certainly wasn’t easy,” Peters said. “For an athlete, (the Games are) the ultimate goal.”
“It’s the most important day of our lives,” Herslow said. “It’s been a long journey to get here. I was able to bring the best that I could bring. We’re moving onward and upward now.”