The first medals of the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, have been decided, with the team competitions for dressage and reining completed.
Germany was crowned the winning team on a score of 242.950. The United States took silver on 233.136, while Great Britain earned bronze (229.628). Germany’s Isabelle Werth topped the individual standings with Bella Rose on a score of 84.829%, with teammate Sonke Rothenberger riding Cosmo finishing third behind the USA’s Laura Graves with Verdades.
It was a gritty battle for silver and bronze, with only a whisper separating the British, Americans and Swedes going into the closing stages. And it was the Swedes who lost out on a podium placing when Laura Graves’ last-to-go effort saw the host nation pin them back to fourth by an agonising 0.15 points.
Werth has won more medals than any other athlete in equestrian sport, but today’s success with her beloved 14-year-old mare Bella Rose, who was already rising to the very top before suffering an injury in 2014 that put her out of action for more than three years, was something very special to her. She burst into tears after posting 84.829 to put the result beyond doubt with the biggest score of the competition.
“She is a gift, I saw that when I first met her as a three-year-old and she has never lost it. Her lightness, her elegance, she never wants to make a mistake, she’s full of power and energy, it is the greatest pleasure to work with her!”
Sweden’s Patrik Kittel came very close to putting his team into the bronze position, but it wasn’t quite enough. And when Graves and Verdades produced the second-best mark of the day, 81.537, the British had to settle for bronze. But Carl Hester (Hawtins Delicato), Charlotte Dujardin (Mount St John Freestyle), Emile Faurie (Dono di Maggio) and Spencer Wilton (Super Nova ll) were pleased with what they achieved with three exciting young horses on their team.
Graves was delighted to pull her country into silver medal spot backed up by great performances from Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper), Adrienne Lyle (Salvino) and Kasey Perry-Glass (Goerklintgaards Dublet). “I was feeling a bit under the weather today but adrenalin is an amazing thing, and this is an amazing team to ride on!” she said.
The top 30 athletes will move forward to compete for individual honours in the Grand Prix Special on Friday. From there, the 15 best-placed athletes will have the opportunity to perform their custom choreography set to music during the fan-favourite Grand Prix Freestyle on Sunday. _ Louise Parkes
USA took out the team competition for the fifth consecutive time, with the country’s youngest WEG rider, Cade McCutcheon, leading the way Custom Made Gun, a 7-year-old stallion owned by his grandparents, Tim and Colleen McQuay. He was joined on the winning team by Casey Deary riding Hilldale Farm’s Heavy Duty Chex; Daniel Huss riding MS Dreamy; and Jordan Larson aboard Arc Gunnabeabigstar.
Belgium took out the silver, led by anchor rider Bernard Fonck aboard What A Wave, joined by Ann Fonck on Made In Walla, Dries Verschuren with Smart N Sparkin, and Cira Baeck on Gunners Snappy Chic.
Germany claimed the bronze medal thanks to Grischa Ludwig and Ruf Lil Diamond, Markus Suechling and Spotlight Charly, Robin Schoeller and Wimpy Kaweah and Julia Schumacher riding Coeurs Little Tyke. Austria was only half a point away from the podium.
The Team Competition and the first qualifier of the Individual Competition kept reining fans glued to their seats. The top 15 riders will automatically will make their way to the Individual Competition. The top five riders from the second qualifier which will be held on Thursday, will also earn their chance to slide to the podium.
Wednesday’s opening reining event hosted 63 horse-and-rider combinations representing 20 National Federations. _ Simona Diale