TORONTO — Before leaving for the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, Mt. Carmel native Lauren Kieffer told a reporter that she was hopeful of landing a spot on the 2016 Olympic equestrian team.
“That’s the ultimate goal for any eventer,” she said. “It would be a dream."
Consider it done.
Kieffer, 28, and her Team USA teammates won the gold medal here Sunday to qualify for the Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next year. And she did it with a near perfect performance aboard “Meadowbook’s Scarlett.”
The three-day competition culminated with a team eventing gold medal for Team USA’s Phillip Dutton on “Fernhill Fugitive,” Kieffer, Boyd Martin on “Pancho Villa” and Marilyn Little on “RF Scandalous.”
Little also took home an additional gold as she won the individual eventing title, with Kieffer taking third place among the American contingent.
The three-day competition was held at Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park. On Friday, the U.S. took on the dressage portion of the competition, where it ended the day ranked first with a slim lead over host Canada.
Team USA scored a solid 133 points in the cross-country event Saturday, leading Brazil by 3.70 points heading into the final day.
Little was in second place in the individual competition after the second day.
Cross-country is considered by many to be the hardest of the three events that make up eventing. Horses and athletes have died at this stage before. Kieffer, who began eventing at the age of “12 or 13” said it is the diverse challenges of the event that attracted her.
Sunday the field took on show jumping. The course, designed by Canadian Michel Vaillancourt, had a time limit of 148 seconds and featured 14 challenging jumps. Dutton led off the American team, scored 52.40 points with only one penalty. Kieffer went next, and went through the course with no penalties and a score of 48.40. For Kieffer, who began riding at the age of 6 and began training full-time in Ocala, Florida following her graduation from MCHS, it was her second no-fault ride of the weekend.
Martin was the next American on the course, and took the lead with a 44.30.
“I’ve been in this bracket 20 years and have never gotten a medal,” Martin said. “This is my first medal. We had to fight for it pretty hard so it’s a very rewarding feeling. I’ve been trying for this for a long time and I finally got it.”
By the time it was Little’s turn to compete, she knew she needed to jump clean to win gold. The situation set Little up for the storybook finish she had always dreamed of. She came through with an error-free ride and a 40.30 total.
That run clinched the gold medal for Team USA and with it a berth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Kieffer and her mount, an eight-year-old thoroughbred cross mare, both made their Pan Am debut on Friday. “I am thrilled. I’ve been working toward this for a long time,” Kieffer told reporters before heading north.
The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are scheduled for Aug. 5-21, 2016.