They’ve done it again. In 2008, the United States Show Jumping Team rode their way to the top of the podium at the Beijing Olympics, and now, three years later, they’ve claimed that spot again at the Pan-American Games.
Beezie Madden, Christine McCrea, McLain Ward and Kent Farrington traveled south with their mounts (and Chef d’Equipe George Morris) in tow to show America’s best that they’re still the top squad in show jumping. The highly-lauded team turned in clear round after clear round, sparking some news sources to remark that the US may be returning to their roots.
That’s a good thing: in the last few decades, European riders and horses have dominated the world of show jumping while the US team has maintained a shaky presence. Just this year, USA lost their place in the revered FEI Nations Cup Show Jumping League after dropping down to eighth by the end of the league’s eight-show series. Traditionally, the bottom two teams are pushed out to the less prestigious Promotional League – a shock for a US team that has been part of the top tier for seven years.
A US rider also hasn’t won the World Cup in 24 years, despite being a formidable presence when it started in 1978.
After a dismal team performance over the summer (US team riders still managed several individual Grand Prix wins between Nations Cup classes), Chef d’Equipe Morris set his team’s sights on the 2011 Pan-Am Games and the 2012 London Olympics. The team has learned from some of their mistakes and returned with a vengeance, turning in eight clear rounds in the final to top ten other nations at the Guadalajara Games.
The team wasn’t done though, and jumped skillfully over Javier Fernandez’s daunting track to earn top individual spots. Christine McCrea bested teammate Beezie Madden by 7/100ths of a second to claim gold, and McClain Ward rode into fourth.
Notably, the US earned gold in the two other equestrians events – dressage and eventing – as well, giving the USET another well-needed boost on the international stage.