In an unbelievably dramatic and exciting afternoon of sport, Team USA won its first medal - silver - at a World Championships for 20 years.
Germany hung on to team gold, but, to gasps from the keyed-up crowd surrounding the beautiful grass arena at Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, Michael Jung hit two fences on DOKR, Klaus and Sabine Fischer, and Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampfffischer's 14-year-old Hannoverian gelding FischerChipmunk FRH (Contendro I x Havanna) to drop out of the medals from first to fifth. Britain’s championship debutante Yasmin Ingham jumped a perfect clear before Jung entered the ring aboard Janette Chinn and Sue Davies' 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding Banzai du Loir (Nouma D'auzay x Gerboise du Cochet), and is therefore the new FEI World Champion.
Olympic champions Julia Krajewski and Amande De B’Neville (Oscar Des Fontaines x Perle De B’Neville) were also foot-perfect and took individual silver as well as team gold aboard the 12-year-old Selle Francais mare who Krajewski co-owns with Bernd Heicke - and Tim Price helped New Zealand to a first team bronze medal since 2012 and in the process grabbed individual bronze himself, riding the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding Falco (Cardenio 2 x Witta), who Price co-owns with Sue Benson. The Brits, in the lead after dressage, dropped to fourth after their final rider, Oliver Towend, tipped four rails on his Burghley and Kentucky CCI5* winner, the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Ballaghmor Class (Courage II x Kilderry Place) owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan.
Tamie Smith and Mai Baum (Loredano 2 x Ramiro), Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell’s 16-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, uncharacteristically dropped two rails and fell from the bronze medal position to ninth, meaning Will Coleman and his great campaigner, Off the Record Syndicate's 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Off The Record (VDL Arkansas x Drumogoland Bay) were the best-placed Americans in seventh with a clear show jumping round.
“It was a crazy day of competition - I can’t remember a final day that had so much drama. It’s been wild," stated Coleman. "But we kept fighting, kept putting our heads down and going in there and keeping as many rails up as we could. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this group and of U.S. Eventing. It was magic to be part of it this week and I think it is a stepping-stone to even greater things.”
Smith was philosophical, stating: “It just wasn’t to be [for me]. I am on a very good jumper and I am very proud of him - he jumped out of his skin, but I just feel it wasn’t to be today. I have to push that aside - this is about a team performance and I am ecstatic to have been part of that.”
Lauren Nicholson and Jacqueline Mars’ 15-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding Vermiculus (Sazeram x Wake Me Gently) also dropped two poles and collected 0.4 of a time-fault for eventual 19th place.
“I’m not disappointed in him. Obviously everyone wants a clean round, but those have been few and far between today. He really tried his guts out in there and those two fences we tipped at the end have caused loads of people problems," stated Nicholson. "It’s a very tough track, super-technical - a proper show jumping track. He was a lot more rideable than he was at Luhmuhlen, and I actually felt he jumped really well and felt really well.”
When it was clear that the U.S. had won the silver medal, Nicholson said: “We’ve been working at it for a very, very long time - this is an amazing group and we’ve been supporting each other for the past couple of months, and it all paid off.”
Boyd Martin swallowed his disappointment about having four fences down on Chris, Thomas, and Tommie Turner’s 15-year-old Trakehner gelding Tsetserleg TSF (Windfall x Thabana) and his 20th-place finish and concentrated on the overall team performance stating: “I’m very proud to be American; to have five clear rounds in the cross-country was awesome. I’ve been on many championship teams and we’ve been so close over and over again. Man, it’s a massive sigh of relief and it’s awesome. I’m very grateful to be here.”
The U.S. individual rider, Ariel Grald, was outstanding to finish on her dressage score of 32.5 with Annie Elridge’s 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Leamore Master Plan (Master IMP IHR x Ardragh Bash), noting: “I have to admit I was a little bit nervous going in - I know he is a really good show jumper and that I have to trust him, but he knocked one or two in the warm-up and I was like, ‘Come on buddy!’ We’ve worked so hard to get him relaxed, but I have to trust that he’s going to go in and try, and after fence one I thought, ‘We’re good!’ Some of the distances were hard for him because he has such a huge step. All credit to the horse - I have to really mess up for him not to jump clear. This is a personal best score for us at CCI5* and I couldn’t be happier with him. I’ve learned so much - I have the most incredible teammates. Our camaraderie, our bond, the feeling and atmosphere in the team and arounds the barns has been magical. I couldn’t ask for a better senior championship experience.”
This renaissance of U.S. team fortunes pivoted around their cross-country performances - the USA was the only country to post five clear rounds in that phase, and the only nation to have all five of its riders show jumping today in the top 25. With the team’s qualification for the Paris Olympics in 2024 secured, there are two years to consolidate and build on what was achieved in Italy this week.
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This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
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