Jerez de la Frontera, Spain – September 21, 2002 – The United States Drivers made history winning the team Silver Medal in the Four-In-Hand Driving World Championship on Saturday at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Until now the best finish for a U.S. Four-In-Hand team at a World Championship was fourth in 1984 and 1986.
All three drivers on the U.S. team went clear in Saturday’s concluding Cones phase finishing with a three-phase score of 286.52 penalties. The Netherlands won the Gold scoring 275.01 and the Bronze went to Germany with 291.54.
James Fairclough of Newton, NJ, driving a team owned by Jane Forbes Clark, was the first to go for the U.S. team and set the tone by having a double clear. Fairclough had bad luck in the first two phases and really wanted to go clear to help the team.
“It was nice to go clear and take the pressure off the other guys,” said Fairclough. “I had a little bad luck the first two days and was the drop score. I’m really glad I was able to do this for them. I have been trying for twenty two years to get a Four-In-Hand medal. It’s nice to finally have one to hang on the wall.”
By the time Chester Weber of Ocala, FL drove his team in the cones phase, the Gold Medal was already won. A clear go by Weber would clinch the Silver for the U.S., but Weber also wanted the U.S.E.T. Four-In-Hand Championship title which was to go to the top U.S. finisher at these World Championships.
“I knew I could go clear,” said Weber. “I wanted to do well for the team, but I also wanted to win the National title. It was between Tucker and me and although we are friends on the ground, we fight in the carriage. It was great to be on this team though we are all such good friends.” Weber finished fifth with a score of 143.33.
Tucker Johnson of Hobe Sound, FL, driving a team he co-owns with Mr. and Mrs. James L. Johnson was the final driver for the U.S. The team medal had already been won, but in fourth place and with the top three yet to go, an individual medal was still a possibility as was an unprecedented sixth USET Four-In-Hand Championship. Unfortunately, the order stayed the same and Johnson finished fourth, clinching the USET title with a score of 143,19, but the team medal was still very special.
“This medal was very meaningful for us and for driving in the States,” said Johnson. “The United States Equestrian Team (USET) made a huge effort to support driving and that made a difference. I was a little disappointed in my performance in Dressage and Cross Country. I know I have a better World Championship performance in me.”
Ijsbrand Chardon of the Netherlands won his third World Championship Four-In-Hand title with a score of 134.30. Christoph Sandmann of Germany had half a time fault, but his score of 136.07 was still good enough for the Silver. The defending World Champion Tomas Eriksson of Sweden dropped a ball and incurred five penalties, but stayed in third for the Bronze with 140.67.
Comprehensive coverage of all World Equestrian Games competition is available on the USET website at www.uset.org.