David O'Connor has completed only the first day of the equestrian three-day competition at the Pan American Games, but already this Pan Am experience has been better than his previous one. O'Connor and his horse, Giltedge, are in first place after the dressage test.
In 1995, O'Connor and his horse, Lightfoot, were scheduled to compete at the Pan Am Games in Mar Del Plata. However, the horse pulled up lame as it was being shipped to Argentina, and O'Connor was forced to withdraw.
Giltedge, a horse O'Connor has worked with for five years, "is very consistent," said O'Connor, who lives in The Plains, Va. "I took this horse to the Olympics in 1996, and we've won nationals twice, so there's a lot of experience under his belt."
The Pan Am Games serve as an Olympics qualifier in the three-day event, but the United States has already qualified for the 2000 Games in Sydney because of its third-place finish at the 1998 World Championships in Italy.
Still, "this is a very important competition; we'd all like to win a medal if possible," said Middleburg's Abigail Lufkin, who is in ninth place on Jacob Two Two. "You'd especially like to win when you're going into an Olympic year, for morale. Winning a medal is good for your sport, and it can galvanize your team. It's like a reward for your hard work."
Lufkin, 28, and O'Connor, 37, are joined by Lauren Hart and Kerry Millikin on the U.S. four-rider team at the Pan Am Games. Buck Davidson, the son of five-time Olympic veteran Bruce Davidson, and Amy Tryon are riding as individuals. All six riders are eligible for individual medals.
Dressage tests the horse's suppleness, athleticism and obedience. The cross-country test is on Sunday and the three-day competition concludes on Monday with show jumping.
* WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Cuba handed the U.S. women their worst loss ever at the Pan Am Games in a 95-64 rout. It also was the most points ever allowed by a U.S. women's team in Pan Am play.
The Cuban women overwhelmed the United States with their quickness, slashing drives to the basket and trapping zone defense. They jumped to a 14-3 lead in the first five minutes and the Americans never recovered.
Cuba, which lost to Brazil in the first round, led 54-27 at halftime and easily topped the previous worst defeat of a U.S. team in Pan Am play, 60-42 by Brazil in 1967. The most points the United States surrendered previously came in a 107-92 victory over Brazil in 1983.
"I definitely wouldn't call that our A game," U.S. forward Lynn Pride said. "Cuba is very good and very athletic. They brought their A game and we didn't respond."
* VOLLEYBALL: The United States wound up seventh in men's volleyball by defeating Barbados, 25-15, 25-13, 25-18. The U.S. team dominated at the net with 40 kills and 13 stuff blocks.