The United States delivered a first world team title as they triumphed in a dramatic finale to Friday’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch Jumping Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC).
The U.S. Trust Arena rocked to its rafters as McLain Ward powered the host nation home after a head-to-head jump-off, the first in team Jumping history to do so at an FEI World Equestrian Games™, against Sweden, which was required to decide gold medal glory.
Ward and Clinta had a chance to win it in regulation time, needing a clear round to deny Sweden, who saw Henrik von Eckermann (Toveks Mary Lou), Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Indiana) and Fredrick Jonsson (Cold Play) all claim clear rounds to finish on an overall team score of 20.59.
Ward had one fence down, sending it into a jump-off, where all four team riders jumped again with times and faults collated, and it was the United States that triumphed by more than two seconds as Ward, Devin Ryan (Eddie Blue) and Laura Kraut (Zeremonie) all went clear and Adrienne Sternlicht (Cristalline) had four faults.
Baryard-Johnsson apart, the Swedish team – anchored by European Individual champion Peder Fredrcison and H&M Christian K – also went clear, yet their immense effort was finally beaten by an ice-cool Ward on another beautiful day in North Carolina.
The German quartet of Simone Blum, who also leads the individual competition heading into Sunday’s final, Laura Klaphake, Maurice Tebbel and Marcus Ehning took Bronze, with the three remaining 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying places being filled by overnight leaders Switzerland, the Netherlands and surprise package Australia.
“It has been a very long three or four days and I take my hat off to Sweden,” Ward said. “I didn’t expect that charge from them today. I knew the situation. I had one fence down and then I knew I couldn’t afford a time fault. I got a second opportunity in the jump-off. I wanted to go in and just do the best round I could. All the guys came through brilliantly and I am so proud to be American today.”
Kraut, meanwhile, added, “This is right up there with everything I have achieved in my career. The team spirit has been amazing and I so can’t believe it.”
United States Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland joined Kraut in struggling to comprehend what his team had achieved, especially having done it in such dramatic fashion.
“This was sport at its best,” he said. “The odds on a jump-off being required were incredible, although we realized it was a possibility. This, today, is why we do it. We have been dreaming about this for so long. We have a tremendous group of talented riders.”
While the team competition concluded in unforgettable fashion, the leading 25 riders booked their place in Sunday’s final.
Blum, aboard DSP Alice, leads the list on a score of 2.47 penalties, with the top ten also including Ward, Max Kuhner, Cian O’Connor, Israel’s Danielle Goldstein and former Olympic champion Steve Guerdat.
Also firmly in contention, meanwhile, are the likes of Ehning, Kraut, Ryan and current world number one Harrie Smolders.
Blum said, “I am so happy. It was my third clear round here and Alice was amazing. She was fighting for me and I’m so happy. Alice is in very good shape here. She is quiet and focused and I feel very good and comfortable with her. She loves the hot weather.”
“I am so proud that I am qualified for Sunday. I think that’s a huge success and I need to stay focused now. We need two more really good rounds and then we will see.”
Boyd Exell and Team Look Sharp After Polaris Driving Dressage Phase
The world’s top-ranked driver Boyd Exell has his sights set on another FEI Driving World Championship title, starting in fine fashion by winning the Dressage phase of the Polaris RANGER Driving competition at the WEG on Friday. The Australian left the arena on a score of 31.68 besting his hottest opponents, home favorite Chester Weber and Dutch multi-medalist Ijsbrand Chardon.
The United States team with Misdee Wrigley-Miller (ranked 4th) and James Fairclough (11th) along with Weber are leading the team ranking on 77.10 in front of the Dutch (87.43) and France (101.40).
Exell put in a spectacular test, as his team of matching dark horses perfected simultaneous movement extended trot and stood motionless for the required eight seconds of the halt. Scoring a 10 for presentation, he built on all the experience gathered in winning four world champion titles, two of them back-to-back at previous WEG competitions.
“I have a super experienced team and did only ten minutes of trotting to prepare them then I had them resting in the shade. You don’t want to leave your best driving out of the arena,” said Exell. “They were so powerful in the arena. It felt like turning a V8 into a V10 engine.”
Chester Weber, Silver medalist in France in 2014 behind Exell, had to drive in right after his strongest opponent.
“That is only motivating me. My only concern was that the crowd would be loud, but when it was my turn we had the whisper campaign going on to all US fans to keep quieter. We have built up for this all season. A score of 35 – I could not be more pleased.”
Last driver out was Dutch veteran Ijsbrand Chardon, finishing third in the field of 19 drivers. His rein-back over three meters scored 8.1 – more than both, Exell and Weber, but was only on 8.8 for presentation.
“Ten points behind Boyd – that is a lot. We have to take every risk in Marathon and cones now.”
Driving is a third-generation family affair for the Chardon’s. His wife Paulien and one of his daughters are back steppers for the older Ijsbrand. For the first time in his storied career, Ijsbrand is joined on the strong Dutch team, with his son Bram (25).
“We help each other and then he makes his race and I make mine. Together we aim for the team.”
Marathon competition will open with Phase A at 10:15 a.m. EST on the White Oak Course at TIEC, using the same undulating terrain as the Cross-Country track for the discipline of Eventing held during the first week of WEG. Phase B will begin with the first combination at approximately 10:45 a.m. EST.
Glorious Dutch Performances End British Reign Of Supremacy for Adequan® Para-Dressage Team Gold
The Netherlands ended one of world sport’s longest unbeaten records when they were crowned champions in Team competition of the Adequan® Para-Dressage at Tryon 2018.
Great Britain’s Para-Dressage team had won every Paralympic, World and European Team Gold medal in the sport’s history, but an inspired Dutch team halted that imperious run at Tryon Stadium.
The Dutch quartet of Rixt van der Horst, Sanne Voets, Nicole den Dulk and Frank Hosmar thwarted a resilient British challenge to finish top on a score of 223.957%.
The British team – Sophie Wells, Sir Lee Pearson, Natasha Baker and Erin Orford – took second on 222.957%, with the Bronze medal going to Germany’s team of Regine Mispelkamp, Steffen Zeibig, Elke Philipp and Dr Angelika Trabert on 219.001%. All three countries also secured qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
In collecting a team silver, Pearson became the most decorated Para-Dressage rider in FEI World Equestrian Games™ history, gaining a seventh podium finish to add to his six previous gold medals.
Two days of team riding across five different grades effectively came down to what happened in Grade III, and the main challengers Van der Horst and Baker did not disappoint, with Baker finishing top on 74.118% aboard Mount St John Diva Dannebrog, but Horst’s 73.559% score with Findsley kept the Netherlands in charge.
It meant that the final British rider – Grade III competitor Erin Orford – had to score a personal best of 72.247% to give Britain gold, but despite a brave effort on Dior, she could only manage 69.029%.
“The pressure was on the British,” Voets said. “We came here with one aim and that was to win a team medal to qualify directly for Tokyo.”
Ultimately, that medal proved to be gold, and even though the winning margin was just 0.640%, no one could argue that when it came to consistent scoring and performances, the Netherlands discovered a winning formula.
Voets added, “It is awesome. We had this historic moment at the Olympic Games in Rio when we won the first Individual Gold and now it is the first Team Gold at WEG.
“With the team, that is even better. It is great to pull out a personal best on a day when you need it the most. It’s fantastic when it all comes together at the right time. WEG was a good test and I think we passed.”
Baker, meanwhile, said, “I had no option but to go in and ride for my life. I knew Rixt’s score going in and I knew I had to beat it. My horse was amazing in there. She was just amazing.
“I am just so proud of her, so, so proud. I was much more confident today and felt so much more prepared. If that is what we can do (as a partnership) in seven months, in another year’s time she will just grow in confidence. I absolutely adore that horse.”
Great Britain Para-Dressage performance manager Sarah Armstrong said, “Our target was to return with a team medal and we’ve done that and to qualify for Tokyo and we’ve done that. They have worked so hard, the athletes and the whole support team behind them. We knew it was going to be tough, but I am thrilled with what they’ve delivered.”
For Germany, it represented an outstanding result as they joined the Netherlands and Britain in claiming a Paralympic passport to Japan.
“It is just unbelievable,” Mispelkamp said. “It’s overwhelming. I have no words.”
Teammate Trabert added, “I was on the team since 1991 and came back only now since I have this fantastic horse. It is overwhelming to be back again.”
For more information on the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 and to view start lists and results, please visit www.Tryon2018.com.