TRYON, N.C.--The U.S. was the only country to have all four of its show jumping team members made the final day of the top 25 competing for individual medals at the WEG, and three made it into the last round of the top12 riders, but unfortunately couldn't quite eke a medal out of it, with McLain Ward placing fourth as the team's best finisher on Sunday, Sept. 23.
Chef d'equipe Robert Ridland continued his practice of putting at least one up-and-coming young rider on every team, and not only has that created tremendous depth in show jumping but at the WEG made that rider, Adrienne Sternlicht, a vitally important member of the team as she delivered a critical clean round in the team competition to help the U.S. to its gold medal.
The jumping team showed its strength and depth at the WEG with not only three in the top 12 but also with all four riders finishing in the top 16 from a starting field of 124 of the top riders in the world.
Ward of Brewster, N.Y., rode Clinta, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare he owns with Sagamore Farm to just miss the medal podium, placing fourth with 11.08 faults behind Simone Blum of Germany on DSP Alice, who finished on 3.47, with just one time fault through five rounds of jumping.
Martin Fuchs of Switzerland on Clooney was the silver medalist with 6.68 penalties and teammate Steve Guerdat on Bianca was the bronze medalist with 8 faults.
WARD AND Clinta came into the final day of competition in fifth place, and after toppling the rail at fence 4b of the triple combination, they added four faults to their total and slotted into seventh place going into the second round.
“I thought the mare jumped brilliant,” said Ward of his opening round. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have ridden the line any different. I was a little concerned about ‘a’ with how high she jumped over the liverpool in the Nations Cup. She came off the ground well. It was an unlucky rub. It’s a bit disappointing, but I’m not disappointed in the horse.”
In round two, Ward rode a masterful clear round but added one time fault to finish on a total of 11.08 penalties.
“The main goal was reached,” said Ward, referring to the team’s gold medal from Friday. “It’s a little bittersweet not to be in the medals individually, but I’m thrilled with Clinta and proud of this team. This was a great championship for us..”
Ward had a busy week as he not only had to deal with competing himself, but he also trains Sternlicht.
Kraut of Wellington, Fla., and Zeremonie, Old Willow Farms LLC’s 11-year-old Holsteiner mare, made a big jump up the standings from 17th to sixth place after they were one of only five clear rounds in Round A.
“I just can’t believe how well she did that,” said Kraut, who has ridden Zeremonie for six years. “I’m lucky I’m on a horse with so much energy. She was really just on.”
Returning for the second round, Kraut and Zeremonie picked up eight faults to finish on 18.87 penalties for 10th place.
“I had to ask a lot of her. It was hot and difficult,” she said. “She jumped into the triple combination great and just lightly rolled that. I thought I had the plank, no problem. She must have just barely touched it, and she jumped the rest great. She had a great week. I couldn’t be happier for her in her first championship.”
The fences were at their maximum height of 1.65m, and course designer Alan Wade used flat cups, meaning the slightest touch meant a rail down.
“I don’t know how many championships there have been where four from the same team make it into the final day, and then to have three in the top 12, it just goes to show we had a really good week," said Kraut. "We had four riders in the top 16. That’s really impressive. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Sternlicht, of Greenwich, Conn., and Cristalline, Starlight Farm LLC’s 10-year-old Bavarian Warmblood mare, had a slight rub at fence 4a of the triple combination for four faults in the first round and 14.26 total penalties, which put them into the top 12 and round two.
“I was the most relaxed I’ve been in five months of jumping, since the observation events began,” said Sternlicht of her first round ride. “I walked the course, and I was so excited to jump. The last time I can remember her feeling this good in the morning when I rode her was at Devon in May. I can’t ask for anything more. It’s been an incredible first championship experience for me, so I’m really, really happy.”
In the second round, Sternlicht and Cristalline had four jumping faults and two time faults to finish on 20.26 total penalties for 11th place.
“Every course I’ve jumped here has been the biggest course I’ve ever jumped in my life,” said Sternlicht. “Walking up here for the final round, I thanked Robert Ridland, our chef d’equipe, for giving me the opportunity. The top 12 was never in the realm of possibility in the world I was living in. I knew my horse could make the top 25 if I didn’t get in her way. I don’t know what else to say other than thank you to my amazing animal.”
Ryan of Long Valley, N.J., and Eddie Blue, LL Show Jumpers, LLC’s nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, had four faults at fence five in the opening round to finish on 16th place with 16.64 penalties.
“That was a little bit rider error there,” said Ryan of his faults. “We just got a little too close to it. But the whole course, he just made a huge effort. Even the last jump, I could just feel his power and scope and he was still fresh. Overall, I think I had a consistent week with my horse. I think consistency says a lot about a horse and a combination. It was nice to be here and not have any big hiccups in the ride, especially with this being only my third team event.”
BLUM MADE equestrian history riding the brilliant 11-year-old chestnut mare DSP Alice as she became the first female Individual Jumping gold medalist in eight World Equestrian Games.
She delivered five successive clear jumping rounds, with just one time fault, across four days of action and actually had a fence in hand going into the final round, which wsn't needed as she had just one time fault.
"I cannot believe it," said Blum, who won more than $90,000 in prize money in her WEG debut. "I cannot describe my feelings. It is just the perfect day.
"Alice performed the whole week without any jumping faults," said Blum. "She is such a careful horse with the biggest heart. I was a little bit nervous today, but I stayed focused and knew that if I rode well then she never normally touches a pole.'
"There was a bit of pressure because Martin had a clear round, and I wanted to be clear or maybe with one time fault," she said. "It is unbelievable what has happened. Alice is a very special horse and this week she showed her talent."
Blum, who will marry her fiance Hans-Gunther Goskowitz in the next four weeks and whose father Jurgen competed as an eventer at the 1996 Olympics, is among a new generation of German riders that also saw teammate Laura Klaphake in the 25 riders that contested Sunday's penultimate round.
Irishman Alan Wade
"Alan deserves a medal as well, designing two more outstanding courses, with 25 riders being whittled down to a final 12 to contest the medals." Guerdat said of course designer Alan Wade.
Fuchs, whose father Thomas and uncle Markus are both prominent former riders, completed a stunning return on Clooney after the horse underwent colic surgery earlier this year.
"It is a great feeling to be on the podium," Fuchs said. "We won a five-star competition in Basle earlier this year, then Clooney had colic surgery. We were worried about him, but he recovered very well, and we are just so happy how he came back."
"This is my first world championship, so I haven't started too badly," said Fuchs. "I had a really good feeling with the horse all the way through."
Guerdat, who regularly trains with Fuchs and is a close friend of the family, added, "I am really not disappointed about being third. We had an amazing day."
"My mare has jumped wonderfully all week and she showed again why she is so special," said Guerdat. "To finish on the podium with my friend Martin is a very special day. He is like a brother, we train together, we are neighbors and his family are like my second family."