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An American dream comes true in Tryon as USA wins team gold on home soil at the FEI World Equestrian Games

Saturday, 22 September 2018
FEI World Equestrian Games 2018

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson The winning US team: McLain Ward, Adrienne Sternlicht, Laura Kraut and Devin Ryan. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

It could not have been scripted with a happier ending for the hosts, as USA won the team gold medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018 on home soil in Tryon on Friday evening. Sitting in silver position ahead of Friday’s final of the Bank of America Team Jumping Championship, the American riders fought to the bitter end to bring the gold home after a jump-off against Sweden. "It was unbelievable! First off, the odds were miniscule that there would be a jump-off for first place. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but the sport doesn’t get any better than that!" said American Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland after the competition. 

Ten teams had lined up for Friday’s final to compete for medals and Olympic qualification over Alan Wade’s fourteen fence track. First out were the individual riders, counting 23 in total before the teams got underway. 

Switzerland was in the lead ahead of Friday’s final, but did not get off to a good start when Werner Muff recorded twelve faults as their pathfinder. When their second team member Janika Sprunger made a shocking exit on fence two to be eliminated with Bacardi VDL (Corland x Kannan), and anchor rider Steve Guerdat later on had one down with Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) it was game over for the Swiss team that fell out of the medals. However, they still qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games when finishing fourth ahead of Netherlands in fifth and Australia in sixth – that surprisingly grabbed the last ticket for Tokyo after brilliant performances from their team members.

USA, sitting in silver position overnight only 0.95 penalty points behind Switzerland, also did not get the start desired for as Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue (Zirocco Blue x Marlon) clipped a rail at the second last followed by Adrienne Sternlicht and Cristalline (Cristallo 1 x Caretello B) who recorded five penalties overall. 

With a bronze in sight overnight, Germany however kept themselves in the game when Simone Blum and DSP Alice (Askari x Landrebell) delivered another clear round as pathfinders for their team – followed by Laura Klaphake on Catch Me If You Can OLD (Catoki x Acordplus) who lowered the back rail of the last element of the triple combination to end on four faults. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson A happy Swedish team claimed the silver medal: Malin Baryard-Johnsson, Fredrik Jönsson, Henrik von Eckermann and Peder Fredricson. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

While Switzerland had a rocky start, Sweden – in fourth position overnight – recorded two out of two clear rounds from Henrik von Eckermann on Toveks Mary Lou (Montendro x Portland) and Malin Baryard-Johnsson on H&M Indiana (Kashmir van’t Schuttershof x Animo’s Hello) to put the pressure on those in front. And, when Sweden’s third rider Fredrik Jönsson posted their third clean of the day on Cold Play (Contendro I x Argentinus) it was clear that they would stay on their overall score of 20.59 – adding nothing to it. 

USA send one of their most experienced riders in their ring as their third team member, and Laura Kraut and Zeremonie (Cero x Quick Star) delivered with a clear round – working their way around the course to pull it off for the hosts. If US anchor man McLain Ward would go clear with Clinta (Clinton x Lord Pezi), Sternlicht’s score of five penalties could be discharged and the gold would go to the States. However, a pole fell half way through the course for Ward and his incredible grey mare leaving America on the exact same score as Sweden – and a jump-off was needed to decide the gold. 

With five faults as their discharge score from Maurice Tebbel on Don Diarado (Diarado x Lord Lancer), a clear was needed from Germany's Marcus Ehning on Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy) to secure the bronze – and the maestro delivered. Germany finished on a score of 22.09 to take the bronze medal, leaving USA and Sweden to battle it out for gold and silver. 

In the jump-off, both USA and Sweden managed the seemingly undoable to produce three clears – each discharging the four faults against the clock from their team members Adrienne Sternlicht and Malin Baryard-Johnsson. 

As last to go, it would be McLain Ward bringing the gold home. With a lightning fast round on Clinta – the quickest of the eight in the jump-off – Ward brought USA’s accumulated time to 100.67, which was two seconds ahead of Sweden. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson The German team took the bronze: Marcus Ehning, Laura Klaphake, Simone Blum and Maurice Tebbel. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Tears of joy were all over for the home team, and USA’s youngest team member Adrienne Sternlicht – who is only 25 – could not stop crying at the press conference, saying: "My best friends and family are here and I’m just thinking - what just happened?! You really don’t want to be woken up from this dream!"

“To be here in our own country and to win against such great competitors, that was hard fought all the way to the last rider. It was amazing sport, I don’t think we ever will see something like this again, so thanks to everyone here for this opportunity,” said American veteran Laura Kraut. “I still can’t believe it!”

McLain Ward, who clinched it for the home team, concluded: “This team, this group, the people behind us, this is what is brilliant about America. Many different personalities, many different people, trying to be great, fighting, trying to be their absolute best! And in the end, I am so proud of that and to be American today!”


Text and photos © World of Showjumping

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