Gladstone, NJ - August 21, 2008 - The USET Foundation would like to congratulate the United States equestrians that competed at the 2008 Olympic Games. The United States brought home the team gold medal in Show Jumping, the individual bronze medal in Show Jumping (Beezie Madden and Authentic), and the individual silver medal in Three-Day Eventing (Gina Miles and McKinlaigh).
USET Foundation Executive Director, Bonnie Jenkins, stated, "The USET Foundation is very proud of all of the American athletes at the Olympic Games. We would like to thank our donors, who helped make these medals possible."
In a jump-off for the team gold medal in Show Jumping, it was the United States versus Canada. The United States was led by Chef d'Equipe George H. Morris, and the team alternate was Anne Kursinski of Frenchtown, NJ, on Champ, a 9-year-old owned by Legacy Stables.
After three clear rounds in the jump-off from McLain Ward, Laura Kraut, and Will Simpson, the medal was decided. Jill Henselwood's four faults and Eric Lamaze's clear round were not enough to keep the gold, and Canada received the silver medal, their first team medal since 1968. For the jump-off, all team members returned to complete the shortened course. If both teams finished with no faults, the times of all riders would be added together and the fastest team would win. Canada had no drop score in the jump-off with just three riders, and the USA had the advantage knowing they could drop a rider's high score.
First into the ring were Ward and Sapphire. They galloped calmly to the final oxer and finished fault-free in 37.05 seconds. Canada's opening rider was Jill Henselwood, who had an unfortunate fault at the wall when Special Ed just knocked off the top block. Their four faults set up the USA with the opportunity win with three clear rounds. Laura Kraut and Cedric entered the ring next and the young grey gelding finished the course with a clear round.
Eric Lamaze and Hickstead set up Canada with a fantastic clear round and their time of 36.35 was the fastest of the night, but that would not be a factor after the third rider for the United States went clear.
Will Simpson and Carlsson vom Dach (12 years old, owned by El Campeon Farm) sealed the gold medal for the United States with their clear round in the jump-off. Simpson and Carlsson gave everything they had over the final oxer and crossed through the finish timers to the roar of the crowd. With his clear round, there was no way that Canada could win, so Ian Millar did not have to return. There was also no need for Beezie Madden to ride in the jump-off either. Simpson and Carlsson made a great pass in front of the grandstands and Simpson punched his fist in the air, knowing he and his teammates won the gold medal.
Afterwards, Beezie Madden said she was "relieved" that she did not have to go in the jump-off. "I was just sorry I made these guys have to jump-off! I wish I had sealed it in the second round. It's the same thing that happened in Athens, and it was a great feeling that we won the Gold medal," she added.
Some may have questioned the United States' gold medal at the last Olympics. They were given the gold after Germany was stripped of the medal due to a positive drug test. For the Americans, however, they knew that today's results only solidified their medal in 2004. McLain Ward stated, "We didn't win by default (in 2004). Others just didn't play by the rules. We have lived for four years with people whining about that. Today was an exclamation point for that. And today was one of the greatest days for the sport in North America."
After the Nations Cup competition, horses and riders had two days to rest before the top 35 geared up for the Individual Show Jumping Final.
In a jump-off of seven contenders, it was American Beezie Madden on Authentic who took the individual bronze medal in Show Jumping.
Although Will Simpson and Carlsson vom Dach technically qualified for the Individual Final by having a good score, by the rules of the Olympic Games only the top three riders of a team can move on to the Individual Final. Since Kraut, Ward, and Madden were all qualified with less faults than Simpson, he was not able to compete individually.
From a first round of 35 riders, the top 22 moved on to a second round. In the first round, American Laura Kraut and Cedric had bad luck with a foot on the tape at the water jump and another rail at jump 10. "I was really happy with him," Kraut remarked. "Like George (Morris) said, he came and did what he was supposed to do- the team- and this was just an added bonus. My total focus coming here was the team; I wanted to make sure I didn't let the team down. Even if I didn't make the individual, I was going to be okay with that."
Cedric, a 10-year-old gelding owned by Happy Hill Farm and Peter Wetherill, tied for 23rd place with just 8 faults in the individual final first round.
McLain Ward and Sapphire made it to the final jump-off for the bronze medal, but four faults at the final jump put them out of medal contention. They finished a strong sixth place. Sapphire is a 13-year-old mare owned by Ward, Tom Grossman and Blue Chip Bloodstock.
Beezie Madden and Authentic, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Abigail Wexner, found the path to victory in the jump-off. They made a huge effort at the second to last oxer and skipped speedily to the final jump. They crossed the timers to the roar of the crowd, who saw that the pair had moved into the lead with zero faults in 35.25 seconds, just one-tenth of a second faster than Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) on Shutterfly.
"It was exciting as a bronze medal can be, jumping off with seven other people. I think this whole week we've had a fantastic team and everything has been a team effort. I feel like they're all a part of this individual medal," Madden noted.
For Beezie Madden, the excitement of winning medals in the team and individual rounds came from accomplishing her goal. "It feels great. We came here to defend our gold medal as a team, and we did that. Then I said that I'd love to win an individual medal and we did that. Hats off to Eric and North America. It was a great week for North American show jumping."
In the discipline of Eventing, Gina Miles of Creston, CA and her horse McKinlaigh, a 14-year-old owned by Gina Miles, Laura Coats and Thomas Schulz had a tremendous finish and came home with the Individual Silver Medal. Miles, who rode consistently well throughout the Three-Day competition, commented, "I'm thrilled...I've worked for this moment for a really long time and have worked on developing this horse from the very beginning, so what an honor to ride him in the arena at the Olympic Games."
Of her Olympic Silver Medal, she stated, "It's been a great journey. It's a culmination of all the dreams and all the hard work, the ups and the downs that come along with the sport of horses and Eventing and life. Learning to take the highs and lows and staying focused and staying on track-and coming back at it for another day. So, the reward of an Olympic medal is tremendous."
Rebecca Holder (Mendota Heights, MN) earned encouraging dressage scores on the first day of competition. She rode her gelding Courageous Comet (12 years old, owned by Becky and Thomas Holder, Jr.) and received marks of 75.56%, 75.93%, and 77.04%, finishing with an overall total score of 35.70%. Amy Tryon (Duvall, WA), Karen O'Connor (The Plains, VA), and Phillip Dutton (West Grove, PA) also did well in the dressage phase.
Unfortunately Amy Tryon fell off Poggio II (16 years old, owned by Amy and Greg Tryon and Mark Hart) during the first half of the cross-country course and did not compete in the stadium jumping phase. Rebecca Holder had some disappointing refusals with Courageous Comet in cross-country, and they finished 42nd individually. Karen O'Connor also had some difficultly with 9-year-old Mandiba, owned by Joan Goswel, and slotted in 45th place. USA's Phillip Dutton, who rode Connaught (15 years old, owned by Bruce Duchossois), was disqualified from the Individual Eventing competition for exceeding the horse's boot weight limit. The United States finished seventh in the Team Final.
The USA sent one of its strongest and most talented dressage teams to the Hong Kong Equestrian Venue in Shatin for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but was edged out of the medals in both the Team and Individual competitions. For the past four Olympics, the U.S. won Team Bronze in dressage and was favored to be a contender for Bronze or Silver at the XXIX Olympiad, however the newly instated format of having only three riders compete with no drop score did not work in the U.S. team's favor.
Riding for the USA was Debbie McDonald of Hailey, ID, aboard Brentina, a 17-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas; Steffen Peters of San Diego, CA, on Ravel, a 10-year-old Dutch gelding by Contango owned by Akiko Yamazaki; and Courtney King-Dye with Mythilus, a 14-year-old Dutch gelding by Ferro owned by Harmony Amateur Sports Foundation. Michael Barisone of Long Valley, New Jersey, and Neruda, a 12-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Jane Suwalsky, served as the team alternate.
King-Dye and Mythilus led off the U.S. team with a solid performance, earning 70.458% for fourth place in the field of 24.
"I'm happy with that score," King-Dye said. "Of course, I was going to be pushing for more, but my horse had a couple of down days when we first got here and I really couldn't have asked for more going in there. He put in a clean test. I know that there's more in there, but I couldn't have and wouldn't have asked for it today. He put in a stellar first test for the U.S. and I'm thrilled with him."
Unfortunately, the U.S. suffered a surprising blow when McDonald and Brentina had an uncharacteristically tense performance that resulted in a score of 63% - the lowest score the brilliant duo had ever received in their career, which has included Team Silver at the 2002 World Equestrian Games, Team Bronze at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, and Team Bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
A devastated McDonald explained that Brentina spooked in the first part of their performance, causing her to be tense and distracted throughout the test. "She started spooking at something on the side. I have no idea what it was," said a distraught McDonald, fighting back tears. "I couldn't put my leg on her or anything; she just wanted to get out of there. It totally took me by surprise. I don't know what to say other than I just feel awful."
The tenseness caused the mare to exhibit an unevenness in her gaits, but McDonald declared, "There's no soundness issue. She's better than she's ever been."
Peters rode as the last rider on the roster as the anchor for the U.S., knowing that he needed a score of 73.6% in order to secure the Team Bronze Medal. In a valiant effort by this brilliant young horse that was making his international debut at the Olympics, Peters and Ravel scored 70%.
"Overall I'm very, very pleased with the ride," said Peters. "I went for it in the half passes and the extensions. I can't risk it in the changes, so I went for safe and clean. In the trot work I pushed it pretty good."
Peters score of 70% combined with McDonald's 63% and King-Dye's 70.458% gave the USA a combined overall score of 67.819% for a fourth place finish in the team competition.
Individually, only two of the three U.S. riders qualified to compete; Peters finished in fourth place overall with a score of 74.15%, edged out of the Individual Bronze by 3/100s of a point, and King-Dye finished 13th with a score of 70.175%.
On August 16, the top 25 riders out of the 47 that contested the Grand Prix qualified to compete in the Grand Prix Special, the first of two tests for the Individual Medals. The top 15 from this class qualified to ride in the Grand Prix Freestyle. The combined score was used to determine the Individual Gold, Silver and Bronze.
Riding as the 19th pair on the roster, Peters and Ravel briefly took over the first place slot with a score of 71.800%, but finished the night in fourth place. King-Dye and Mythilus were the 20th pair to go and gave it their all, garnering 70.80%, which put them in eighth place.
On August 19, the top 15 from the Grand Prix Special returned to the ring for the Grand Prix Freestyle. Both Peters and King-Dye qualified to compete.
Peters and Ravel delivered a spectacular ride and finished third with a score of 76.50%. The duo performed to a track entitled "Love to Rock" played by Greg Herristor and coordinated by Terry Gallo of Klassic Kur, which included versions of "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones and a piano piece from "Romeo and Juliet" by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
On a combined overall score of 74.15%, Peters and Ravel were just edged out of the Individual Bronze Medal and finished the Olympics in fourth place individually.
"We had a tiny bit of tension in the first change of the two tempis that could have been a difference - if that could have been enough to make up two percent to be ahead of Heike (Kemmer), that's questionable, but fourth place at the Olympic Games is not so bad," beamed Peters.
Commenting on his Olympic experience, Peters said, "It feels wonderful. There was a ton of discipline involved. We worked really hard. I worked really hard. At the end of the day discipline is the bridge between dreams and accomplishment. I think that paid off today."
King-Dye and Mythilus earned 69.55% for their freestyle to a semi-original composition created by Marlene Whitaker and Mark Hagerling based around the Cat Stevens song "Sad Lisa." King-Dye and Mythilus earned an overall total of 70.175% for a 13th place finish in their first Olympics.
"I was actually really happy with my ride," King-Dye said. King-Dye commented on her Olympic experience saying, "I loved it." She noted that the U.S. team unity and support from all those involved in the competition, including vets from different countries, was a good experience. "I learned so much as an athlete and about priorities with the horses," King-Dye said. "It's just been an incredible learning experience - more than I can say in a few sentences right now."
The United States Equestrian Team Foundation (http://www.uset.org
) is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America's elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.
For more information on the USET Foundation, please call (908) 234-1251, or visit USET ONLINE at http://www.uset.org
Photo Credit: The United States' Show Jumping Team- Will Simpson, Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, and McLain Ward- won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. Photo (C) 2008 Susan J. Stickle. This photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/uset-foundation-usa-olympic-games-08-08.html">USET Foundation Applauds Efforts and Results of Team USA at 2008 Olympic Games</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com