Polly Serpell rode the Cayman Islands into the history books in Nanjing, China.
Polly, 16, claimed a bronze medal in the International Team Jumping event at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Wednesday. It is Cayman’s first ever medal at the competition, which is staging its summer edition for only the second time. Polly was part of an all-girls squad, dubbed Team North America, that featured Ecuador’s Macarena Chiriboga Granja, Guatemala’s Stefanie Brand, El Salvador’s Sabrina Rivera Meza and Maria Gabriela Brugal of the Dominican Republic.
After claiming the medal, Polly was quoted by the Olympic Games website as simply saying, “We are all girls, so it’s girl power.”
Polly had a flawless ride in the second and final round of competition, with zero faults. In round one, she registered four faults. As a result, her side amassed a total of eight penalties, ahead of the 16 penalties by Africa (South Africa, Senegal, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Egypt) 20 faults by Australasia (Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia, Iraq) and 28 faults by Asia (China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar). Europe – Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands – won gold with no penalties while South America – Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil – won silver with four penalties.
For the team event, organizers grouped riders together on regional squads. Polly and Maria are the only two riders from the Caribbean, which was not enough for the West Indies to form the mandatory 5-member team. The other girls all hail from Central America and with no competitors from Canada, Mexico or the United States, the “North America” moniker is actually a misnomer.
Up next for Polly is the individual jumping segment, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22-23, at the Xinzhuang Equestrian Venue. Prior to leaving for China, Polly said she enjoys the camaraderie of the sport and was keen to learn Chinese culture.
“I enjoy the close teamwork involved in riding,” Polly said. “Unlike many sports it involves two minds and two bodies, if you and your horse are in sync, nothing can beat that feeling. I am very excited to meet the other athletes competing at the Youth Olympic Games and watch other sporting events. China will be a very different experience and I am looking forward to it, for a special sporting and a cultural experience.”
It should be noted that Polly used a borrowed horse in Nanjing, an 8-year-old Belgium warm-blood horse named Georgio Zan. Using an unfamiliar horse is part of the competition rules and presents an added challenge as riders have to form a quick bond.
Cayman has five athletes competing across four sports in China. Aside from Polly, Morgan Lloyd, Cayman’s youngest competitor at age 15, is competing in the women’s all-around artistic gymnastics competition and producing personal bests. Pearl Morgan, 16, will run in the 200-meter sprint on Friday. Sailors Pablo Bertran and Florence Allan are near the middle of the pack in the nine-race Byte CII, one-person dinghy class. Pablo, 16, recently recorded his first top finish by placing second in his seventh race.