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Waylon Roberts ready for Pan Am Games challenge

Waylon Roberts ready for Pan Am Games challenge

Posted by PanamericanWorld on June 22, 2015

Representing Canada at an international competition is nothing new for Waylon Roberts, who has been donning the red and white since the age of 14.

But in all the years of his riding for his country, a span of 12 years, he hasn’t had the opportunity to compete on home soil, in front of family and friends, on a giant stage like the Pan Am Games will provide.

The Port Perry resident was named to the Canadian eventing team that will compete at the Pan Am Games hosted by Toronto in July. The jumping and dressage portions of the event will be held in Caledon, while the cross-country ride will be in Mono, near Orangeville.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It means the world to me right now,” Roberts says from West Grove, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, where he is living and training. “You will have the hometown crowd rooting and pulling for you. I get to compete at venues that I’ve been familiar with all my life.”

Eventing is considered the triathlon of equestrian, requiring horse and rider to compete in three disciplines, including dressage, show jumping and negotiating their way through a cross-country obstacle course. The course for the Pan Am Games is expected to be between four and 5.5 kilometres, with as many as 30-35 jumps, including water, drop-offs and log jumps.

Roberts made his debut with the Canadian team at the age of 14 at a show jumping event in Brazil. He returned to Brazil four years later as an 18 year old, winning a team silver medal at the Pan Am Games. That experience has set him up well for his second inclusion in the Pan Ams.

“That’s the biggest difference. I competed at the Games eight years ago, but I’m at a completely different point in my career,” he says. “I think I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m going to be able to draw on that experience from eight years ago and hopefully have a huge improvement this year.”

Experience and maturation, along with a couple of years training in England, have the 26 year old poised to take a run at gold when his event kicks off on July 17.

“My parents have always been big on sending me to other trainers to learn more and gain more knowledge,” he says of his time in England. “The more people you work with the more you can pick and choose what you like.

“Going to England was an extension of that. England is where the sport is really strong and popular. There’s more competitions and more competitors and it really showed me where I need to go to get better and be competitive on the world stage.”

His roots in equestrian run deep, as his dad, Ian Roberts (Athens 2004), and mom, Kelly Plitz (Los Angeles 1984), are former Olympians. They operate Dreamcrest Equestrian and Horse Trials in Port Perry and have been a major influence in the career of their son.

“My parents have by far taught me the most and definitely guided me along the right path to get me where I am today,” he says with pride.

While that path has certainly led to a successful career as a competitor, and one which will continue on that level, Roberts has also dabbled a little in coaching. Young riders have been the recipients of his experience, although he admits that at times when the two cross, it can become rather daunting. He relates the story of competing in Montreal recently, while one of his students was also competing in a lower division. His attention was a little divided.

“It’s something that I’m really passionate about is trying to pass on my knowledge,” he says. “I’ve worked with a lot of people and I’ve learned a lot of different ways to do things. I think that offers some advantages to me as a coach. I can pass that on.

“Sometimes you can be pretty selfish in your own sport and do it all for yourself. I think it’s important as athletes we are able to mentor and pass things on.”

Roberts is in Pennsylvania training with American rider Phillip Dutton. While the two are working together now, they will be competing against each other at the Pan Am Games, as Dutton will be riding for the United States.

Roberts’ mount for the Pan Am Games will be Bill Owen, a 12-year-old horse owned by his mother, who has only been competing for three years. The two will compete in the dressage on July 17, followed by the cross-country and show jumping on July 18 and 19 respectively.

Long-term, he has his target set on next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he has already met the qualifying standard with another horse, Kelecyn Cognac.

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