Where to begin. I’m on the journey home with memories of Beezie Madden claiming the Individual Bronze Medal and Cortes C claiming the Best Horse title in the Final Four phase of Show Jumping at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. Chester Weber did us proud as well claiming an Individual Silver in Driving and his team was fourth.
There are lots of articles out there telling you the full story. Orange is the new Gold now has become a phrase at the Games after Dutch rider Jeroen Dubbledam took the lead in that class not dropping one rail riding any of the four horses which includes his horse Zenith SFN, Cortes C, Patrice Delaveau’s Orient Express HDC and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson’s Casall Ask.
Just in case you are not aware of how the final competition is run, let me explain. Once the top four riders have been placed the final competition involves them first riding their own horse and then riding the other three horses. That’s where Jeroen shone.
Beezie while always brilliant had bad luck with two of the three horses at a triple combination dropping one rail on every horse except her own. In fact, Cortes C was the only horse that every rider was able to negotiate the course clean on. “I always knew he was a champion and this confirms it,” commented Beezie.
Silver went to Patrice who admitted that he was disappointed because his second place finish was due to a one time fault; just one. Patrice acknowledged that the pressure on him has been huge because as a Frenchman his fellow countrymen have been watching him closely for a long time. Yet, the truth is a Silver is nothing to be disappointed about.
Beezie’s luck for a Bronze was thanks to Rolf, who also had downed rails and time faults which gave her the 2 point lead she needed despite having three rails down. It was a glorious day for the U.S. after a rather lacklustre first week at the World Equestrian Games.
For me after the event ended it was a quick sending off podium and awards photos before making the journey back to Hotel de France, my home for the three weeks I was in France. This hotel is definitely a place I would recommend. The breakfast there is wonderful, it’s a great location near the river and the staff is helpful and pleasant. The biggest issue was the internet, which is a huge concern for media but somehow we were able to file what we needed to.
My energy and that of many of the other journalists, especially the photographers, was focused on packing for an early drive to Charles de Gaulle Airport on Monday, August 9th. Caen is almost a three hour drive from the airport and so it meant many of us were either driving or catching an early shuttle.
And for many (like me) it took all night to get the packing organized.
First there is the basics of clothes and then there’s the more intense part of packing camera equipment but for me the part that takes a lot of time is sorting through the paperwork and trying to get that down to as little as possible. You still need reminders of placement, names and horses with some photos to still label any results needed for stories. Also, they provided the media with quick quotes which were very helpful for those of us who are both writers and photographers.
I ended with about an inch and a half of paperwork to take with me and a garbage pail overflowing with the leftovers.
What’s most difficult for me and I’m sure the other photographers is the fact that we don’t want to check our expensive camera equipment. Carrying that equipment means a backbreaking day of travel and fear that someone will try and force us to check it because of connecting smaller planes. However, I must say that both my United partner flights on Lufthansa to fly into France and Air Canada to fly out, have been seamless, as far as what they’ve permitted.
Charles de Gaulle airport has more than one terminal and my shuttle driver dropped me off at the wrong one. At first I was worried because of timing but with some guidance I managed to get to the Airport Shuttle and get myself over to Terminal 2 for a seamless and welcome check-in.
I write this from the air as I head to Toronto and then on to Calgary to cover Spruce Meadows. I take with me what I most enjoy about these Games: the memories and the photos. I’ve covered every one. So, this will be my 7th, which is matched by having covered the past 7 Olympic Games.
During the event, life is tough because the days are long, the workload plenty and the sleep little but it still makes me feel special to be able to photograph the world’s best riders and horses up close and personal.
I’ll admit that some years are better than others. Obviously when we medal that makes it all the better. We had 50/50 success in France. We swept the Reining (Bronze, Silver and Gold Individually and Team Gold). In Endurance, only Jeremy Olson made it to the finish of the five that started and only 38 of the 175 starters finished.
In Eventing there were no U.S. medals and that day was tough for both us and the horses. The weather created mucky weather in parts of the course and 2/3 of the starting field of 91 made it to the finish and the show jumping. The highest placed American was Boyd Martin riding Shamwari 4.
In Dressage there were no medals but some good performances and personal bests. Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 and Laura Graves riding Verdades were the two that made it into the Freestyle and Verdades is certainly capturing the judge’s attention.
Our Para-Equestrian riders didn’t medal but they were determined and smiling no matter where they placed. It’s such a wonderful honor for them to be able to compete in a World Equestrian Games. Kudos to the FEI for including this division.
No U.S. vaulters medaled in Vaulting but what a great setting that was to compete in. I only was able to watch the U.S. team in their final go. They were on top for a while but then a row of incredible performances passed them by. The Zenith Arena where the vaulting was held was electric and so much fun to be in. The team spirit was phenomenal.
In fact the team spirit throughout these Games was one of the best I’ve ever seen, especially from the French. They cheered for everyone but were clearly hoping that their countrymen would be the ones ultimately sharing the podium and in fact many of them did.
I’ll remember these Games for so many things, the good and the bad are what create the memories and help the Normandy France Games to be indelibly stamped in my brain.
From when I started covering the first Games in Stockholm, Sweden in 1990 until our present day Games the difference in following what’s happening is huge. Back then it was our stories that everyone looked for. Now we share the platform with stories from nations, federations, broadcast and social media.
I hope you’ve taken advantage of the various areas to access the news (including Mary’s facebook page) and have taken the time to share. This year’s Alltech World Equestrian Games and all the past ones have given the horse world a stage to showcase the horse and as a result we’ve gained a lot of visibility and growth.
The next Games will take place in Canada in 2018 and I plan to be there again to watch our competitors in action. I hope you will be too following my stories and others here on Horsesdaily.