by Louise Parkes
The numbers are in for week 2 of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 when 365 athletes from 53 countries will compete in the four remaining disciplines at Tryon International Equestrian Centre in North Carolina, USA from 18 to 23 September.
Can the dashing Australian daredevil, Boyd Exell, secure his fifth World Championship and third consecutive World Equestrian Games titles? Will the British stranglehold on the Para-Dressage medal table ever be broken? Is it time for Italy’s Anna Cavallaro to take Female Vaulting gold at last? And can the 2014 double-champions from The Netherlands dominate in Jumping once again?
They all tried to topple Exell from the top step of the individual medal podium last time around but, with only a 2.77 penalty-point lead over America’s Chester Weber, the awesome Australian just dug deep and produced a gritty clear in the final Cones phase to clinch the honours once again.
The Dutch, the most decorated country in this discipline with 14 medals including five golds, made it a back-to-back team victory and their fourth overall at the last WEG.
A total of 19 Four-in-Hand Drivers from nine countries will be in action next week and the Belgian team will be a fascinating one to follow.
Edouard Simonet (29), Glenn Geerts (29) and Dries Degrieck (23) joined forces to take team bronze at last summer’s FEI European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) and their combined age profile comes to a relatively modest 81, while the American threesome of Weber (43), James Fairclough (60) and Misdee Wrigley-Miller (61) have 164 years of experience between them.
As a team the British are unbeaten at World and European Championships, and at the Paralympic Games. At the WEG they head the medal-table with 11 golds, and their closest rivals are Germany and The Netherlands with four each.
Germany’s Hannelore Brenner and Great Britain’s Lee Pearson and Sophie Christiansen are tied on a record of six WEG medals apiece, but the phenomenal Pearson has six golds in his collection compared to four for Christiansen and three for Brenner. And Pearson is back again this time around so a further addition to his already massive haul of loot is not altogether unexpected.
A total of 63 athletes from 23 countries will line out, and Ahmed Sharbatly will be making history as Saudi Arabia’s very first WEG Para-Dressage athlete. Holding 23rd place in the current individual world rankings for Grade 4 athletes, the 38-year-old rider will partner the 11-year-old Dutch mare Cassandra.
With medals on offer in Male and Female Individual, Squads and Pas-de-Deux, a massive 142 athletes from 17 nations will contest the Vaulting Championships. When you combine top sport with pure entertainment you’re guaranteed it’s going to be a crowd-pleaser, and the Vaulting hall at the last WEG in Caen (FRA) was simply electric with excitement throughout the entire week as spectators were wowed by the energy, skill, precision and theatrical quality of this popular sport.
Britain’s Joanne Eccles claimed back-to-back gold in the Female Individual while Jacques Ferrari and Nicolas Andreani set the home crowd alight when scooping gold and silver for France in the Male Individual, and Austria’s Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha stole the show in the Pas de Deux Final are back to defend their title in Tryon, whilst Italy’s Anna Cavallaro looks a major contender for the Female Individual glory. The 32-year-old vaulter who is a doctor by profession claimed WEG silver in 2014, bronze at the World Championships at Le Mans (FRA) in 2016 and won the 2017 FEI World Cup™ Vaulting Final. She will be a formidable opponent to the 38 other Individual Female contestants. Germany is the most successful country in Vaulting at the WEG with 30 medals in total including 10 gold and will defend the team title.
Jumping will round up the final week and it looks wide open for both the team and individual medals.
There will be 125 riders from 49 countries battling it out, and 25 nations will contest the coveted team title that has been claimed four times by Germany - the Dutch the only ones to wrest it from their grasp in 2014. Global expansion in recent years sees a whole range of new countries competing this time around, with the flags of Bahrain, Bolivia, Ecuador, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Romania and Thailand joining the start-list for the very first time. And it will be a double-history-making moment for Bolivia, Lebanon, Macedonia and Romania as these four countries will make their debut in any sport at the WEG.
The Netherlands’ Jeroen Dubbeldam will not be defending his individual title but it’s hard to look past his fellow-countryman and Dutch team-member Harrie Smolders as a major contender, because the world no. 1, who saddles up Don VHP Z with whom he claimed individual silver at the FEI European Championships last summer, is in formidable form. However world no. 2, America’s McLain Ward, and his compatriot Beezie Madden are likely to try to get in his way.
Double Olympic gold medallist Madden has WEG team silver and bronze, and individual silver and bronze medals in her list of achievements along with the 2018 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping title. And Ward also has two Olympic golds, WEG team silver and bronze and victory in the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series under his belt. The presentation of the individual Jumping medals will bring the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 to a close on Sunday 23 September, and the Americans will be determined to get their feet onto that podium on home soil.
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